CHESTERFIELD, Va. – Some teens in Chesterfield are going beyond the three R’s and getting a well-rounded education when class dismisses.
The program is called XZone, and it is a faith-based after school program.
“It’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun out here,” says Executive Director, Steve Harper.
“We provide a safe environment so the kids don’t go down risky paths for their lives,” Harper adds.
Mr. Harper says at XZone, fun meets fundamental.
“It is life skills development and leadership development all the way around,” says Harper. “We want them to become productive citizens.”
The non-profit, operating 10 years now, is unlike many other teen-centered programs.
Young people are introduced to problem-solving in the home, garage and outdoors. From budgeting and laundry to changing a flat and how to fish teens are exposed to many aspects of life. And on the 200-acres they own, kids can spend plenty of time outdoors.
“There is nothing better in life than watching the light bulb of a young person go on in front of you,” says Harper.
Mentors like Katie Rhodes and Michelle Miller dedicate their lives to the boys and girls.
“I tell the kids that you are going to make an impact on this world whether negative or positive every single day always chose the positive,” says Miller.
Katie and Michelle say strengthening bonds with vulnerable teens is paramount.
“(Working here is) incredibly rewarding. It is hard, don’t get me wrong. I would walk through the hard days to get to the rewarding days,” says Katie.
At XZone young people find trust in adults.
“Actually, if you’re having a rough day they’ll come and talk to you about it in private and make you feel better,” one teen says.
“What we’ve found and what they’ve found is the more we continue to be consistent and the more we show up the more they allow us to get in,” Katie says.
Other teens comment how safe they feel in the program.
The lessons learned at XZone last a lifetime, impacting child and adult alike.
“I tell people that I could be doing something that makes more money and not love what I do,” says Katie. “I love what I do and would not change that for anything.”
Another thing that stands out is a certain rule: no mobile phones.
Though rarely are teenagers without their phones these days, no mobile devices or tablets are allowed in the program. The idea is to have kids interacting face to face, not thumb to thumb.
Mentors at XZone say that by disconnecting electronically, boys and girls can connect with each other in person. Laptops, as an exception, are used for study purposes.
If you would like more information on XZone, click here.
Nominate someone for the “Heroes Among Us” segment by emailing reporter Greg McQuade.