Distance Learning Center Opens at Fairgrounds

Jody Deaderick said it’s been difficult adjusting to the demands of distance learning this year.

“I’m really thankful for this,” said Deaderick, a Camptonville resident, after dropping off her granddaughter Wednesday at the Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub on its first day.

Ella Lock, a ninth grader at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning, has done her best to attend frequent Zoom calls for school while using the family’s sometimes unreliable satellite internet and monitoring the periodic data limit.

Deaderick said she and her granddaughter had previously gone to a community center parking lot so Ella could attend school Zoom calls, connecting to the building’s Wi-Fi, which offered a strong enough signal to connect to an improvised work station in their vehicle.

The new Distance Learning Center, operated by nonprofit Bright Futures for Youth at the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ Main Street Service Center, will provide Nevada County students a more consistent place to work and access high-speed internet as most continue to attend school in a fully distanced or hybrid instructional model.

The space holds over 30 work stations indoors, distanced according to COVID-19 guidance, as well as outdoor seating and an open area for students. Those in fourth grade or older may be dropped off, while parents or guardians are asked to stay with younger students.

Students are asked to bring their own or school-provided devices, whether laptops or tablets, and headphones.

“Our team has done a great job of getting everything ready, so now it’s just about waiting and seeing how word of mouth gets out to the kids,” said Bright Futures for Youth Executive Director Jennifer Singer.

The center’s opening, originally set for Monday, was delayed for two days due to PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shut-off. It will also be closed Monday through Wednesday next week for the election, with activities resuming next Thursday, Nov. 5, after the space has been cleaned and restored to its learning center configuration.

“We expect it to grow over time, and then once we can get a more consistent schedule, we’ll be excited about that,” said Singer.

Working Together

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay described the center as “a great example of multiple Nevada County agencies working together for the benefit of our students and community” in an email Monday, adding that a secondary benefit to this hub for schoolwork is providing meals to students through the Grass Valley School District’s central kitchen.

When students arrive, they will go through a check-in process, primarily facilitated by Brian Peterson, a Nevada County probation group supervisor assigned to the center, and site coordinator Cori Ove.

The process, Ove explained, involves the basic COVID-19 screening widely implemented by schools — asking about any symptoms, potential exposure, or illness in family members — as well as establishing a folder for each student to keep record of their visits, and which work station they use while at the center.

Ove said this information will be helpful if the center ever needs to conduct contact tracing regarding a case of COVID-19.

Cheryl Rubin, director of development and communications for The Friendship Club, a program under Bright Futures for Youth, wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon that a total of three students visited the center on its first day.

“It’s going pretty well — we knew it was probably going to be a little slow, especially now with the power outages and everything, and I think that it’s OK … because this is new for all of us,” said Ove, who began working for Bright Futures for Youth in August.

“But we’re ready to roll, for everyone to come,” she said.

Other than its permanent staff, supervision will be aided by the nonprofit’s volunteers, of which Singer said around five are in the screening process — a background check and fingerprinting, standard to the organization’s volunteers — to begin at the center.

Cliff Brown, a Bright Futures for Youth board member, volunteered at the center during its first morning open. On what motivated him to help out, he said, “I know this has been a challenging time for students. My daughter is doing distance learning as well, so a chance to give the students more support and a place that they can physically study and have good internet access, I’m just happy to support that.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union.

Photos by Elias Funez.

man walking a dog
Grass Valley’s Joe Streng walks his dog Scarlet Wednesday among the pines at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, its first day reopened to the public following the initial COVID-19 shutdown in March.
students studying
Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning ninth grader Ella Lock focuses Wednesday on her science work from one of about 30 socially distant work spaces inside the Main Street Center Building of the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The high speed internet work space, offered through the help of Bright Futures for Youth, is now available for student use.
women walking
Fans of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, Carole Spencer and Michele Hagen, were eager to walk the grounds once again on reopening day Wednesday. The fairgrounds’ partnership with Bright Futures’ student work space has helped open the grounds to the public, once a waiver at the gate has been signed.
distance learning
Western Nevada County high school student Ella Lock focuses on her science work Wednesday from the new student work space set up inside of the main building at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
board members
Bright Futures board member Cliff Brown, from left, site coordinator Cori Ove, Nevada County probation group supervisor Bryan Peterson, and site coordinator Evan Nielsen are some of those helping to make the new Distance Learning Center at the fairgrounds come to fruition.
Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning ninth grader Ella Lock uses the Wi-Fi connection to do her distance learning at the Distance Learning Center set up at the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ main building at Gate 1.

Bright Futures For Youth’s Friendship Club And NEO Programs To Supervise Distance Learning Center And Youth Hub At Nevada County Fairgrounds

nevada county fairground distance learning s building

Free breakfasts and lunches available for students; COVID safety guidelines will be followed

Bright Futures for Youth will start providing much-needed internet access and supervision for students Monday, Oct. 26, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ Main Street Service Center as part of an agreement between the fairgrounds and Nevada County.

Bright Futures for Youth is a nonprofit created by the merger of The Friendship Club and NEO Youth Center.

The free Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub will be available to children, 8:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, to help meet the educational needs as the region continues to deal with the COVID pandemic and the subsequent health and safety requirements.

Children in fourth grade and higher can be dropped-off at the center, while parents or guardians must remain with younger students. The Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub can accommodate up to 40 students at a time.

The Distance Learning Center is committed to first helping students who have limited or no access to the internet or need more help with their schoolwork. School districts are working with Bright Futures for Youth to identify these students.

The Distance Learning Center will offer high-speed internet access – critical for online learning but difficult to get for many residents in rural areas – socially distanced workstations, and a safe and supervised study environment. Students are required to bring their own or school-provided Chromebooks, laptops or tablets, and headphones.

girl at fairgrounds distance learning center

“There are so many ongoing challenges for parents and children, especially when it comes to school and online learning. Many families have no or very slow internet access, and that puts students at such a disadvantage when it comes to online learning,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth. “The center and hub are truly a collaborative partnership between community organizations with creative and innovative solutions to ensure students can focus on their education in a supervised setting.”

The Distance Learning Center at the fairgrounds will serve all school districts in Nevada County.

Grass Valley GVSD Child Nutrition Services will provide free breakfasts and lunches to students.

The center “helps meet some of the critical needs” of students, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. “It provides students and their families reliable internet in a very safe environment at a location they are familiar with.”

Bright Futures for Youth staff and volunteers will supervise students at the center and hub, along with staff from Nevada County Probation. Bright Futures for Youth has decades of experience with children and young adults in the region through The Friendship Club and NEO. Bright Futures for Youth offers after-school and enrichment programs; counseling and mentoring; help with access to social services; and hosts summer camps and programs. Several hundred children and young adults access the organization every year.
“We know many of these students and the obstacles they face when it comes to online learning,” Singer said. “We’re uniquely qualified to provide the services and supervision needed to help these students succeed and build resilience.”

The Friendship Club and NEO programs established virtual efforts and in-person activities to remain connected with youth during the pandemic. NEO will also hold after-school programs at the Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub.

older teen with mask at fairgrounds

The Distance Learning Center will be closed Oct. 30 and the week of Nov. 2 because the fairgrounds is an election polling location. Center activities resume on Nov. 5.

Nevada County and the Nevada County Fairgrounds announced the partnership for the Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub in late-September. Supervisors approved spending as much as $450,000 to lease the fairgrounds’ 12,000-square-foot exhibition hall through June. The funding consists of $200,000 from the county’s $10 million coronavirus relief federal fund and $250,000 from the general fund. The lease will generate much-needed revenue for the hard-hit fairgrounds, which has been struggling during the pandemic.
The Youth Hub will follow COVID guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks. The area will be cleaned and sanitized throughout the day.

Invest in Nevada County youth for today … and tomorrow

art camp photo

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place order is challenging youth – and all of us – in new ways, as we contend with isolation and uncertainty. For pre-teens to young adults with little control over their lives, this isolation can lead to dramatically increased anxiety, stress and despair – and the need for mental health support.

You can count on The Friendship Club, which recently merged with NEO Youth Center, to create opportunities for our youth, and in turn, for our community to thrive.

Soon to be known as Bright Futures for Youth, the nonprofit is expanding to provide comprehensive academic, emotional, and social support to several hundred girls and boys ages 11-25 throughout the greater Grass Valley/Nevada City region.

Our life-changing programs are in full swing, five days a week, with numerous activities, support services and connection to meet needs of nearly 200 youth, double the number from a year ago. Efforts include:

  • Providing after-school classes and hands-on programs, fun activities, on-site counselors, mentors, tutors, access to internet and distance learning coaches.
  • Making mental health support available via telehealth to address more needs – a 10 percent increase in just the first few months of the pandemic.
  • Assisting unhoused 16-24-year-old young adults through the SAFE program, with basic needs, rental assistance, career paths, community resources and more.
  • Improving efficiency and effectiveness with student management system software to tailor services for young people, including coordination with care providers.

Be assured, Bright Futures for Youth is following COVID guidelines for all in-person activities.

This needed and valuable expansion requires the collective financial support of the community. Your support is a gift to our youth and to our community.

Please consider supporting this most worthy endeavor to invest in youth, today and tomorrow. Donate online at  https://www.friendshipclub.org/donate-online/ or by check to The Friendship Club (200 Litton Drive, Suite 308, Grass Valley, CA 95945).

Merger of The Friendship Club and NEO Will Expand Nevada County Youth Services

Combined organizations will support several hundred youth every year

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – The Friendship Club and NEO (New Events and Opportunities) have announced their merger expected to be completed by the end of August, a step that will enhance their capacity to meet the ever-increasing needs of youth in Nevada County.

“The merged organizations have similar efforts and goals, and we can help ensure stronger and more expansive support for youth during this important time in their lives,” said Jennifer Litton Singer, Executive Director of The Friendship Club. The organization started as a pilot program with 15 girls in 1995 and now serves more than 125 youth a year.

Helping youth transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency is a far-reaching goal of both The Friendship Club and NEO. Young men and women are provided academic, emotional and social support, life-skills training, career education and access to counseling and health care. In 2019, The Friendship Club expanded to help 16- to 24-years-olds experiencing homelessness through its SAFE program (Stability, Access, Foundation, Empowerment).

“The Friendship Club and NEO have extensive experience working with youth, their families and the community,” Litton Singer said. “Joining together is part of a focused effort to ensure young people have hope, opportunity and the capacity to succeed.”

Youth are facing more challenges in this modern world. By coming together, the organizations will be stronger and able to serve more youth in better ways. The Friendship Club and NEO will meet the needs of several hundred youth every year. Youth in the community can use one or a combination of the programs, receiving services in numerous ways.

NEO was co-founded by Halli Ellis-Edwards and Lynn Skrukrud in 2008. NEO has evolved to embrace a holistic approach to wellness, addressing the root causes of substance abuse and mental health issues through events and its Youth Center.

NEO is moving the Youth Center to a new location with plans to reopen when services can safely be offered again. In the meantime, NEO is providing virtual programming and pop-up summer camp events. The Friendship Club is also providing fun summer activities to youth. Both organizations are implementing all required practices to maintain social distancing and safety protocols.

“We’re extremely grateful for what we’ve accomplished and how we helped fill a great need in the community,” said Ellis-Edwards, who along with Skrukrud, was 19 when they founded NEO. “Combining the organizations will allow more youth and young adults opportunities to access a safe, fun and supportive environment while getting services they need to thrive,” said Skrukrud.

neo and friendship club merger

The merged organization will be known as Bright Futures for Youth to better describe its expanded mission and vision for youth in Nevada County. The organization will be comprised of three aligned programs: The Friendship Club, NEO and SAFE. The new, multilayered organization will provide comprehensive services to meet the many, and sometimes very specific, needs of youth in the area. The name change is pending approval from the California Secretary of State.

The Friendship Club and NEO boards of directors unanimously approved the merger. All Friendship Club and NEO board members will join the new Bright Futures for Youth Board of Directors. Singer will serve as Executive Director and Ellis-Edwards and Skrukrud will continue with the organization.

“The merger is about bringing together our committed, mission-focused organizations and making them stronger,” said Machen MacDonald, Board President of The Friendship Club. “We will leverage our resources to provide a continuum of services so young people get the help and resources they deserve.”

NEO Board President Marty Lombardi, who also serves on The Friendship Club Board, commented that the addition of NEO coupled with The Friendship Club and SAFE will provide a “one-stop shop” for youth services.

“It takes kind and caring hearts moving in the same direction to make a community thrive,” Lombardi said. “The Friendship Club and NEO have a never-ending commitment to ensure that our children and young adults get the assistance they need.”

The Friendship Club, celebrating its 25th Anniversary this month (July), has helped empower and educate more than 1,000 girls and young women in sixth through 12th grades who face many life challenges. Although much has changed since Mary Collier founded the organization in 1995, the goal of connecting girls with each other, mentors and role models, and putting them on a path to success, remains constant.

NEO strives to empower youth to make healthy and positive lifestyle choices. Founded in 2008, NEO serves youth ages 11- to 25-years-old through its Youth Center, community events, school outreach programs and summer camps. Since opening the center in 2015, NEO has provided free after-school drop-in hours for more than 1,000 youth.

For more information, contact Cheryl Rubin at The Friendship Club, 530-265-4311 ext. 206 or cherylr@friendshipclub.org

Beards of a Cause: The Last Push

The last few months at The Friendship Club has been really fun and busy with lots of fundraising! A few months ago, the Nevada City Police Department approached us for a fundraising opportunity, and of course we jumped on board! The “Beards for a Cause,” has totally surpassed our expectations, as the NCPD have blown passed their $2,000 goal and continue to push further! The Friendship club is honored that NCPD chose us and believe in our mission to engage, educate and empower girls at risk in Nevada County.

Since we are nearing the end of the month and the Beards for a Cause fundraiser, if anyone wants to donate towards this fundraiser you can click here and can either choose the whole team or one officer you want to support!

Currently, the top fundraiser for Beards for a Cause is Bryan Travis at the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Regional Dispatch, who joined later in the game, but has almost raised double the goal amount set for each officer! We are so proud of each officer raising funds for us, and we hope to continue working with them in the future!

The Friendship Club Photography at The Flour Garden

The Friendship Club Photography is featured at The Flour Garden in Brunswick Basin for the month of April. The beautiful collection of photos taken exclusively by the young women of TFC, detail our breathtaking local landscape and elements. Every summer, our girls have the opportunity to participate in a beginning and advanced photography clinics. The participants are educated on the different camera features, lighting, and editing. The photos at The Flour Garden are available for purchase as four varieties of boxed notecards-so stop by and have a delicious cup of coffee and peruse the delightful works of the girls!

Willie Nelson SOLD OUT…but we have TWO VIP tickets!!!

Very generous friends of The Friendship Club have donated two VIP tickets to see Willie Nelson on Friday, September 14th at 7:30PM at The Nevada County Fairgrounds (a Center of the Arts-Stars Under the Pines Presentation). THE CONCERT IS SOLD OUT, but you could be the fortunate winner of a pair of VIP tickets to this once in a lifetime event!

To support The Friendship Club, enter the raffle for the Willie Nelson tickets and we will select a winner for a pair of VIP tickets valued at $172 (includes a Parking Permit for Gate 1, Early Access in the Reserved Seating Area). Enter the raffle for $20.00 per raffle ticket. Drawing will be held on Monday, September 10th.


  • Purchase raffle tickets at Nevada City office during business hours located at 138 New Mohawk Road, Suite #: 275. Please call first to make sure we’re here: 530-265-4311.
  • Purchase raffle tickets online through our PayPal account by 5:00PM on Sunday, September 9th (Click on the Donate option on our homepage if you can not access through above link)
  1. Enter the dollar amount totaling the number of raffle tickets you want to purchase (2 raffle tickets=$40; 4 raffle tickets=$80
  2. Fill out the requested contact information
  3. Press the Review Donation and Continue button
  4. We will then fill out a raffle ticket for you and enter it in the drawing for each entry you purchase.
  5. If you have any trouble paying online, contact Yolanda at 530-265-4311 or yolandac@friendshipclub.org for assistance.

Judi’s Fundraiser for The Friendship Club on June 2nd, 2012

Judi’s of Nevada City will be hosting a special fundraising event for The Friendship Club on Saturday, June 2nd, from 10am until 6pm.

The Friendship Club has been helping at-risk adolescent girls in Nevada County since 1995 with a year-round program of educational activities, emotional support and community involvement.

At this fundraising event on June 2nd, Judi’s will be offering a 5% discount on all regularly priced merchandise while donating a percentage of all sales to The Friendship Club. The doors will open at 10 am and complimentary refreshments will be served throughout the day. Staff and board members from The Friendship Club will be on hand throughout the event.

The Friendship Club Fundraiser is a great way to enhance your wardrobe with Judi’s fabulous fashions while supporting a very worthwhile local cause!

Reflections Skin Oasis “Brow-A-Thon”

Make your reservations for this Friday, October 28th to get your eye brows sculpted by Reflections Skin Oasis.

ALL the proceeds go to benefit The Friendship Club.

Call 530-274-9053 to reserve your spot today!