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State-sponsored clubhouse opens in Dawson County
4 Next Gen pic
Youth Leader Bradley Jones, 15, demonstrates a puzzle ball to Stacey Leonhardt, library branch manager. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News


For more information on the Next Generation Clubhouse, call (706) 429-0110.


One of three state-sponsored clubhouses in Georgia has officially opened its doors to Dawson County students.

Next Generation Clubhouse held an open house Oct. 29 to show the community what Bindy Auvermann, executive director, has been working on for the past couple of years.

"It's taken us a long time to get here," Auvermann said. "We are thrilled to be given the opportunity for the clubhouse.

The facility is housed in renovated space at 462 Memory Lane, near the library and Fire Station 1. The work was funded through state grants. The other clubhouse locations are in the more urban or suburban areas of Gwinnett County and LaGrange.

"We wanted to pick a more rural area for this location," said Travis Fretwell, with the state offices of behavioral health and development. "We identified a need for a place where there wasn't a lot of things for young people to do."

But the clubhouse, which is open during after school hours and for special events, isn't just a place for kids to hang out. Its purpose is to steer Dawson County youth away from drug and other substance abuse.

"With a prevention-based clubhouse, we wanted to pinpoint areas where we can work with young people and divert them from any usage of substances and abuse." Fretwell said.

The clubhouse employs a certified specialist to work with the students who visit.

"I work very heavily with the students and make lessons for them. We use a curriculum and take them on field trips, things like that," said Ellen Ward, prevention specialist. "I'm really excited to see the growth of students and really see them learn."

Next Generation also works with student volunteers to give kids one-on-one time with peers.

"My brother told me about the program. It always helped him with problems and in school," said youth leader Cody Owen, 16. "When I got into it, I really liked it.

"It helped me get my grades up and supported me through school. This program has done more than anything else."

As a youth leader, Owen assists with the meetings and any events at the clubhouse.

"They want us to become leaders," he said. "You get to create a new future for yourself."

The clubhouse features technology such as computers, tablets and 3-D printers that students can use on site.

"We have chosen, as our vision, technology, because we need to move everyone into the 21st century," Auvermann said.

Currently, the clubhouse plays host to 12 students. There are 50 spots available.

The employees, particularly Auvermann, said they are anxious to get more kids involved.