Youth center reaches out to middle schoolers

SALEM- An area youth center is introducing a new program aimed at middle school students.

The ROC of Salem will host its new Middle School Night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays beginning July 11 for youth 10 to 12 years old. The program will feature games, skits, food and live music in addition to devotionals and lessons based on Biblical principles.

The program is aimed at instilling strong morals and Christ-centered values at an earlier age, according to the program’s coordinators, Josh Harbin and Nick Kucko.

“A lot of times nowadays, kids at a younger age are seeing some of the same problems (as older youth), the drugs, the sex,” Harbin said. “We hope to provide a positive influence and a place where they can get good, positive values in a world where those values aren’t always present.”

Harbin, a 2012 Salem graduate and assistant director at the ROC, said he came to Christ through the youth center, one of the many youth without a steady positive influence in his life seeking a cool place to hang out. His experience should help him reach those who attend the middle school program, he said.

“I was able to learn about Christ (here),” he explained. “I went through the same things (the middle school) kids are going through.”

A 2012 West Branch graduate, Kucko, who is studying Bible and theology at Malone University in Canton, said he started attending the ROC after finding Christ two years ago and learning of the youth center through his youth group at church.

“I liked the whole program,” he said. “It made an impact on kids who wouldn’t necessarily be in church. With the middle school program, we’re really excited to make a bigger impact on the community.”

According to the ROC’s director, Eric Hamilton, the middle school program is a natural progression in the center’s ministry.

“In the three and half years we’ve been here, we’ve seen a growing need (for a middle school program),” he said. “It’s an age group of kids (like the high school) that doesn’t have any place to go to do something constructive. [The growing need] validates what we are trying to do- impact all the youth in Salem, not just the upperclassmen.”

Hamilton said the need for positive influences begins at an early age.

“People start developing behaviors and thought processes very young,” he explained. “We want to show the kids at a young age the face of Christ…that there are fun things for them to do. The earlier we can do that, the better.”

Located at 261 S. Lundy Ave., the ROC is open from 7 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday and Saturday for ages 13 through 20. The non-profit ministry offers activities and food at no cost to area youth. Individuals interested in serving as chaperones or groups interested in sponsoring meals may contact Hamilton at 330-974-8844 or Harbin at 234-567-0988.

For information about the youth center, visit The ROC of Salem on Facebook.