PAL comedy night scheduled

By: Cody Kitaura, News Messenger Correspondent
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When middle-school students get bored, they cause trouble. Or at least that’s part of the thinking that led the Lincoln Police Activities League to begin a decade-long push for a youth center, where teens could go after school to play games, do homework and receive counseling services, according to Executive Director Steve Krueger. When the center finally opened in October, Krueger said, it was to be funded partly by the city but budget constraints made that impossible. To keep the center open, the Police Activities League agreed to fund it outright for a year or two, in hopes that the city will share the cost at some point. Fortunately, the Police Activities League had a banner year for fundraising in 2008. An anonymous member of its board agreed to match up to $15,000 in donations and the organization raised about $31,000 for the youth center, President Roger Ueltzen said. But still, fundraising efforts must continue. The Police Activities League will hold its second annual Comedy Night at 7 p.m. April 17 at the Lincoln Heritage Theatre. Comedian Don Friesen will perform and Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt will emcee. Tickets are $20 and are available at Tickets will not be sold at the door. The youth center is located in a refurbished firehouse on Fourth and H streets and was partially funded by the Maloof Foundation and the Sacramento Monarchs. Krueger said it’s especially important for middle school students to have a center like this one. “Middle school (students) slip through the cracks,” Krueger said. “They don’t have much to do in town.” Krueger, who also works as the Police Department’s youth services officer, said the youth center has been growing steadily in popularity and 20 to 30 teens show up each day it’s open. Those hours are from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But despite its growth, Krueger said the center is still misunderstood. “There’s a misconception that it’s for gang members or former gang members or kids who are in trouble with me,” Krueger said. “That’s really not the case. There’s a really good assortment of kids (at the youth center).” Although the youth center is currently only open to middle-school students, the Police Activities League provides other activities for youth of all ages. It sponsors a free summer baseball league, camping trips and outings to San Francisco Giants and Oakland Raiders games. Lincoln Police Lt. Paul Shelgren said he has seen these activities turn around many lives. He recalled Travis Reed, who was “one of those kids who found himself in trouble all the time.” Reed became involved with the Police Activity League’s camping trips and later worked as a camp counselor before leaving Lincoln to join the U.S. Navy. He has since been accepted into the Navy’s Honor Guard and participated in the January inauguration of President Barack Obama. Reed hopes to coordinate his military leave so he can again work as a camp counselor this summer, Shelgren said. The Police Activities League hopes to expand by offering more counseling services at the youth center and to eventually open it to high school students on some weeknights, Krueger said.