COUNTY NEWS RELEASE
Last Thursday, hundreds of “tweens” gathered at Ashley Pond to play laser tag, listen to music and throw a few water balloons, thanks to the foresight and collaboration of several community organizations. This was the first of what will be many congregations of “Hawks Hangouts,” an initiative to keep middle school youth connected and engaged with each other and the community by providing a space just for them. The next event is scheduled for Thursday, June 2, from 3:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m. at Ashley Pond and is open to incoming 7th graders and current 7th and 8th graders.
Los Alamos County Community Services Department has taken on the charge of providing these activities in connection with Los Alamos County Library, Social Services, Teen Court, YMCA, Teen Center, Youth Activity Center and other community members to begin developing these programs. Originally called the “tweens” or “Middle School Initiative” – the youth surveyed have requested the name “Hawk Hangouts.”
The Hawks Hangouts event highlighted the community’s collaborative involvement: The library staff helped youth make buttons, Community Services provided water balloon fight with local police officers, Teen Center and YMCA provided Laser Tag and soccer and Teen Court provided music and snacks. Turnout was greater than expected, with close to 200 middle school youth in attendance, according to Sobia Sayeda, a senior planner with the LA County Community Development Department and one of the individuals involved in the initial conceptualization of the initiative.
George Marsden, Director, YMCA Los Alamos Teen Center, who oversaw the laser tag activity, shared, “Things were a bit crazy wrangling the inflatable bunkers in the high winds, but the energy of the kids was even higher and kept us going.
“Given the incredible response to the event, which came together on fairly short notice, it is obvious to me that our middle school youth are hungry for fun, age-appropriate, organized activities to participate in. We have a long history of providing these types of activities for elementary and high school youth through the YAC and Teen Center, and it is clear that our community must step up its game and start serving ALL youth in Los Alamos.”