Jennifer Best Contributing Writer
Santa Maria Valley is home to a growing list of summer programs catering to the tens of thousands of local youth who live here. While public, private and non-profit organizations strive to meet the needs of the community, there’s still room for expansion.
“There’s definitely a need and a demand for youth programs. I don’t know if we’ll ever have enough childcare options, and there’s still room for businesses to target youth, especially our teen and college-age markets,” said Glenn Morris, president and chief executive officer of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.
According to the latest figures released by the American Community Survey Five Year Estimates, Santa Maria had grown to 103,000 residents by 2016. More than one-third of those were minors. Santa Maria programs also absorb youth from neighboring communities.
As schools wrap up for summer, the demand for youth activities peaks. Enter government agencies such as the City of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, long-time non-profit stand-outs including Valley Christian Academy and Santa Maria Valley YMCA, and relative newcomers like The Pad Climbing gym at 2399 “A” Street and The Rockin’ Jump Trampoline Park in Town Center East.
The Pad Climbing owners Kristin and Yishai Horowitz jumped into the day camp fray last year with a program aimed specifically at energetic youth ready to climb the walls. The week-long, half-day camps introduce valley youth ages 6 to 13 to bouldering, develop team-building skills and focus on each youth’s personal goals. The gym also offers open gym, yoga and barre classes for youth and adults.
Downtown, the city’s first trampoline park has opted out of day camp in favor of group rentals and open play on a variety of apparatus from its wall-to-wall, trampoline based dodgeball arena to jousting with padded “battle sticks.” There’s a foam pit for little kids, stunt bags for older jumpers and a vertical climbing tower. Neon Night Cosmic Jumps offer Friday and Saturday evening active entertainment for teens, while The Rockin’ Jump also offers discounts for jumpers ages 6 and younger.
“The for-profit sector certainly includes room for growth in childcare, entertainment and retail, especially on that gap in the teen-focused opportunities,” Morris said.
Meanwhile, nonprofits and government provide their own flavors of play.
The City of Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department continues to offer the valley’s core supply of youth recreation activities, all of which can be viewed in its 2018 Recreation Guide (https://www.cityofsantamaria.org/home/showdocument?id=23976).
Among featured programs is the Police Activities League’s all-expenses-paid, deep-sea fishing trip for teens ages 12-18. There’s Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center’s safe teen meeting space, and the City’s junior firefighter camp, teen police academy, Futsal league, youth pottery, guitar, mini-chef workshops, music, and martial arts.
Paul Nelson Aquatic Center, located immediately adjacent to the downtown youth center, offers recreation swim as well as adaptive aquatics and lap swimming. Santa Maria Swim Club and One-Way Water Polo Club both call the aquatic center home and offer youth programs year round.
Just a couple blocks south, Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum continues to expand with a new maker space designed with teens and tweens in mind. In addition to its regular operating hours, the non-profit will offer four, week-long day camps this summer.
They include: Discovery Robotics League, July 9-13, for youth ages 8 to 14 in partnership with Orcutt Academy’s Spartatroniks robotics team; STEAM Lego Lab, July 16-20, for youth ages 6 to 10, where Hancock instructor Brian Stokes leads hands-on engineering and building projects; Discovery Artists Camp, July 23-29, for kids 8-14, led by Discovery Museum Artist in Residence Jill Iversen and featuring daily, ocean-inspired projects; and Mini-makers camp, July 30-Aug. 3, providing mini-makers ages 6 to 10 VIP access to the new maker space where they can tinker with woodworking, robotics and more. Visit smdiscoverymuseum.org for details.
Families seeking full-day camps might head to Santa Maria Valley YMCA, which offers Teen Xtreme Camp, Counselor in Training Camp and Traditional Camp through Aug. 13. For more information call 937-8521.
At 6,100-members strong, the Y offers some of the most affordable options for local families and access to facilities including indoor and outdoor basketball courts, arena soccer, swimming pool and related aquatics programs.
“What sets us apart is that membership here includes all fitness classes. You don’t have to pay a fee, then pay for each class. Our childcare while you’re in the gym is 75 cents an hour and, as a nonprofit, we’re able to provide scholarships for those having a hard time financially,” said YMCA Membership Director Gabriela Mendoza.
The Boys & Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley (922-7763) presents “Super Summer Fun” through Aug. 13. The camp is offered as a full-day program for 6 to 12 year olds, or half-day program for all ages. Activities include field trips to the theater, Hurricane Harbor and weekly themes.
Valley Christian Academy’s Valley Summer Day Camp will continue its 30-year tradition of summer day camp complete with field trips, arts, sports, and its popular drama workshop for students in grades 3 through 6 enrolled at least 4 days a week.