NEWBURYPORT — Providing after-school activities for middle-school students can be a challenge, but those at the Newburyport Youth Services center appear to be succeeding at this task.
The number of participants at the drop-in center at the Kelley School Youth Center on High Street has more than doubled in the last two years — growing from 26 enrollees in 2009 to about 60 members this fall.
The summer's Teen Trips program, which recently concluded, also registered a jump in attendance.
The drop-in center is open Monday through Friday from 2 to 5:45 p.m., and appears to appeal to both parents and youngsters seeking late-afternoon activity.
Students generally walk to the center from the Rupert A. Nock Middle School on Low Street — viewed as an activity in itself — and then engage in a number of supervised programs.
Andrea Egmont, director of youth and recreational services at the center, credits youth coordinator Beth Manning with playing an important role in reviving interest in the after-school center. Manning was hired as a part-time coordinator and has since been promoted to youth coordinator on a full-time basis.
"Youngsters feel welcome when they come here, and parents like the program because this age group is a little old for a baby-sitter," Egmont said.
As middle-school students, they also fall just short of the many sports and club activities at the high school.
It did take some time for the youth center to settle in to its High Street location. Formerly housed at the YWCA Greater Newburyport on Market Street, Newburyport Youth Services found itself at the Nock Middle School in 2005.
After the program lost its space there, it was forced to close for a year to review its options for activities and space.
NYS was able to emerge as the prime tenant at the former Kelley School, and the numbers have been growing since.
Fees for the drop-in program are $300 for the full school year and $175 for a half year. A pass offering 10 visits costs $100.
Activities range from crafts and games to outdoor activities at off-campus locations. It is a range that fits Manning's background.
"I feel fortunate to be working in a field that I enjoy," said Manning, 24, a graduate of Westfield State University who majored in business and outdoor activities.
"My interests include surfing, biking, rock-climbing and hiking, and we can offer activities like these, plus games like floor hockey, volleyball and basketball on the courts across the street."
The center also hosts more sedentary offerings like cooking, baking and the occasional movie.
Manning recently took a multi-day course in overnight youth activities with the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire. She hopes to see Newburyport Youth Services hosting overnight activities next summer, if not before.
"When I came here, Beth made me feel comfortable," said Danielle Harrison, a middle-schooler who attends the program.
Quinn Campbell, another middle-school student, said the center offers activities for different interests. She's excited to do things like hiking and backpacking soon.
"I look forward to coming here," Quinn said.