The second floor of the Southside Community Center serves as a safe space with learning opportunities for children and teenagers at the San Marcos Youth Service Bureau. The nonprofit is run solely off grant funding and donations from the community by program director Julie Hollar, program assistant Samantha Saenz, and volunteers and interns with the goal of teaching kids useful life skills.

“Sometimes, it is just a matter of building their self confidence, telling them they are great kids, watching them blossom,” Hollar said. “It’s a good program for the little kids that come in because they are mentored by the older kids.”

The free after-school and summer program is for children ages 11-17 who are considered at-risk for dropping out of school. On an average day, the kids will come to the center after school or in the summer and work on homework, receive a snack, play games, create art projects and more.

Hollar and Saenz also take the children to practice real-world skills such as applying for jobs at San Marcos businesses or being savvy shoppers at thrift stores downtown, which both women said is an important component to the character education portion of the program.

“Showing them around San Marcos and other areas also gets them more comfortable with their city and the resources that they have [available to them],” Saenz said. “There’s more out there, and they might be experiencing some tough times right now, but so long as they keep pushing forward, they have something to look forward to because they’ve already seen it and experienced it with us.”

Learning gaps are addressed as some do not know how to properly socialize with others or clean up after themselves due to lacking a role model, Hollar said.

“They just need to learn that they can be part of the community and that they can contribute to the community and that there are things that they can strive to do in the future,” Hollar said.

Get involved

The two-person team is supported by an array of interns and volunteers that help create positive influences to at-risk youth.

Volunteers can:

• be a mentor and provide support;

• be a tutor; and

• share other skills or interest.

Those interested in donating to the nonprofit can go to the website or Facebook page to donate via PayPal.

San Marcos Youth Service Bureau

518 S. Guadalupe St., San Marcos 512-396-5437 • Facebook: San Marcos Youth Service Bureau

Hours: Mon.-Thu. after school-6:30 p.m. (during the school year); Mon.-Thu. 12-5:15 p.m. (summer); closed Fri.Sun.