Everyone knows being a teenager can be tough, and tougher for some than for others.
Kasi Clausen ran away from home when she was 12 and was hanging with a party crowd in Roseburg.
Last week, at the youth center she helps manage, Clausen, 31, took meat from the freezer to give to a pregnant teenager who lives in a camper. While she gathered food, Clausen talked about 2006, when she spent eight months in jail for drug possession.
That’s when her life turned around, she said.
“I told God, ‘Just use my life for whatever purpose you have.’ ”
While locked up, Clausen exercised, prepared for college and created a vision statement for a teen center.
The Phoenix School’s Youth Outreach Center on Southeast Jackson Street isn’t quite the place she envisioned, but it’s a start.
Since it moved downtown in January, the center has served 201 at-risk kids between the ages of 12 and 20. Some received food; some were referred for counseling or tutoring. Some were helped to go home, or escape home. Some came to hang out, use computers, play foosball or get warm.
The center hosts activities such as street art competitions, free concerts and screen printing workshops.
“Our program is not religion-based, but it’s pretty obvious that God is watching over us here,” Clausen said.
The center’s art director, Max Smoot, said Clausen is good at helping teens partly because of her own experiences.
“She’s really passionate about what she’s doing. She’s extremely into this. That’s really effective. She has been where these kids are now,” Smoot said.
The Youth Outreach Center was originally in the Casa de Belen teen homeless shelter on Grandview Drive. While it was there, Clausen volunteered to raise $2,000 to redecorate.
“It just kind of looked very institutional. It wasn’t comfy. Kids want to be in a homelike environment,” she said.
When she was a teenager, Clausen said she bounced back and forth between Roseburg and California, where her grandparents lived. She said she found people in Roseburg to be judgmental of teens in trouble and said she hopes to see that change.
She said the city seems to be positioning itself to become a retirement community, but she noted that a place with one of the largest high schools in the state needs to give serious thought to the needs of its teens.
She said she hopes to eventually expand the youth center so it can serve all teens, so at-risk youth can mingle with teens who aren’t from troubled backgrounds. The center she envisions would have a cafe to employ kids, a space to create art and a shelter for homeless kids.
“I just want people to recognize and to support our efforts and make this happen for our community and the kids, not just the homeless and at-risk kids, all of them,” Clausen said. “They deserve that support,”.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or email@example.com.