By Bill Tamburrino
As mentioned in my column July 25, we need more and better recreational activities for not only the youth of Ramona but also for all of the citizens of Ramona.
Just because there is a need doesn’t mean that nobody is trying to fulfill that need. I recently visited the Arriba Teen Center at 1710 Montecito Road, which is in a building that has also served as Ramona Community School and as the Ramona High School wrestling team’s practice facility. Come to think of it, where haven’t the wrestlers practiced?
Arriba is a 501c3 which is a fancy way of saying that it is a nonprofit organization and one can donate to it and get a tax write-off or something good like that from Uncle Sam. I don’t make enough money to understand what that means. When I donate money to any organization I usually get comments like, “I didn’t know that they minted pennies anymore.”
Arriba is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. Arriba is staffed by volunteers and is kept open by donations. The major donors are: Dr. Jane Tanaka, Palomar Pomerado Health, Ramona Unified School District, Creative Wisdom Foundation, Ramona Music Center, Soroptomist International of Ramona, Ramona Kiwanis, and Ramona Rotary. Stop by and see Kim Lasley if you want to donate money or anything that can benefit the teens.
Lasley is the director, CEO, head cook and bottle washer, and she is the straw that stirs the drink. She leads a group of loyal volunteers that include Nancy Roy, Liz Schaude, Laura Kitchen, and Joe and Katie Baima.
The volunteers all have different talents that they pass on to the teens who frequent the center. Schaude is an art teacher, Kitchen tutors, and so on. In all honesty, the volunteers are just teens from other generations. They hang out and play games and try to blend in so that the teens don’t feel supervised or intimidated.
Arriba has two pool tables on which the teens take turns beating the volunteers. There is a very large television set that has a DVD and is compatible with video games, along with foosball, ping-pong, computers, board games, comfortable couches, a snack machine and a drink machine that has prices that were popular in the 1980s.
Besides just hanging out there are also planned activities. There are movie nights, concerts, volunteer disc jockeys, pizza nights, barbecues, tuna cook-outs, dances, etc. Arriba teens have painted and designed their own murals. Several teens in the Ramona High Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and the wrestling team have volunteered to clean up and do weed abatement.
The RHS NJROTC has a computer room where it practices for its Cyber Patriot Team competitions.
There are plans for the future.
“We are making every effort to make a skateboard park a reality. There are signs all over that say NO SKATEBOARDS!” said Lasley.
“We are working to have a place where there will be a sign that says, SKATEBOARDS WELCOME!” said Joe Baima.
“We hope to be making an important announcement in a couple of months,” Lasley said.
Himalayan Mine donated gems and the teens learned to cut and polish gems and make jewelry. Two hundred pounds of tuna was donated in May and a barbecue and cook-out was held. Arriba turned into a haunted house in late October.
“Our busiest time of the year is when school is in session. We take off a few weeks in May and June. For some reason the summer is slower. I have noticed that one doesn’t see many teens in Ramona during the summer. I don’t know where they go or where they are but you don’t see as many as you do during school time,” said Lasley.
“We just celebrated our fourth anniversary. We are growing and we hope to do more. There are so many great teens in Ramona and we have a lot of fun here at Arriba,” Lasley added.
The volunteers, donors and sponsors who have kept Arriba Teen Center going have done a great service to the community of Ramona.