Back in the mid-'90s, there were many needs in the Valley, especially for pre-teens.
The Y recognized the needs of this underserved age group and developed what has come to be known as SNL.
Fifteen years later, SNL is still going strong and draws more than 100 middle-schoolers each Saturday night.
What is SNL? The mission of this program is to provide a place for any middle school kid to hang out with their friends in a safe and fun place. Kids do not need to be Y members to attend; they just need a valid middle school ID.
From 7-9 p.m. each Saturday night, Y staff lead a variety of activities such as racquetball, basketball, swimming, indoor soccer, rock climbing and Wii games as well as movies and the occasional dance. SNL is supervised by Y staff committed to providing the best experience for the kids while giving them a safe place to hang out.
The Y has committed resources and staff to help support and mentor middle-school kids. The Y is also committed to reaching out not only to Walla Walla-area kids, but also to the surrounding communities such as Touchet, Waitsburg, Dayton and Milton-Freewater.
Changes are coming to SNL ,such as basketball tournaments, jazz and hip-hop classes, volleyball and more. Most importantly, the kids will have a voice in what activities are offered.
SNL was designed to provide a place to keep kids busy during the winter months. Now it will run during the entire school year, every Saturday night, from September to June, except during the holidays.
Thanks to the many people in the community, the Y has been able to offer this program without cost to participants.
As we search to find the answers to the rising problems that our community faces, the Y will continue looking to implement the best possible programs to provide a healthy and safe environment for our kids.
SNL is only one small part of what the Y is doing to help develop our community's youth and is active in supporting kids and their families.
Fifteen years ago, Y leaders recognized the need for a program such as SNL. Today's leaders are committed to continue implementing new ideas and programs to reach out to new generations and listen to their needs.
Abel Hernandez-Ruiz is the youth sports director at the Walla Walla YMCA, where he has worked for 10 years.