Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Teens and pre-teens party at county pools

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Germantown residents Ashley Taylor (left), 12, and Lanice Harris, 12, play in the Germantown Outdoor Pool during a recent county party for middle and high school students.
Rondeah Fortune, 11, of Germantown was excited to be at her first pool party.

‘‘I’m here to have fun. I like swimming and jumping off the diving boards,” Fortune said as she waited for the lifeguards to signal it was time for the swimming to begin.

As an incoming sixth-grader at Neelesville Middle School, Fortune is finally old enough to attend teen events.

Troy Wood, 12, of Silver Spring, on the other hand, is a veteran. He was attending his second pool party of the summer.

‘‘It is fun to just chill out and not have to worry about anyone,” said Wood, who often has to keep an eye on his younger cousins when at the pool. There was no one for Wood to worry about on a recent Friday night at the teen pool party at the Germantown Outdoor Pool.

The pool party was one of four sponsored by the Montgomery County Recreation Department on Friday nights in July.

‘‘The parties are for middle and high school students from the county,” said Lori Tyer-Ellis, recreation department supervisor of youth leadership for under-21 teen events. ‘‘We want to give them a safe, supervised place to have fun in the summertime.”

The Germantown Outdoor Pool was closed to the public at 8 p.m. July 13 to give the recreation department staff one-half hour to transform it into a teen haven for the night.

Counselors tossed dozens of pool toys — noodles, rafts, tubes, floats and balls — into the main pool and the staff held a last minute meeting to be sure each knew his or her duty station.

Soon after 8:30 p.m. the pool began to fill with splashing, playing teens and music filled the cool evening air.

Jackie Tzou, 12, of Gaithersburg was one of the first off the diving board. Her friend, Valerie Gormley, 12, of Darnestown watched as Tzou tried again and again to perfect her dive.

‘‘I just can’t get my feet to go over my head,” Tzou said, although she admitted she did a very good belly flop.

Sitting by the pool as daylight turned into darkness, Gormley looked around and said, ‘‘It’s fun with the music and all these people getting to swim.”

Disc jockey Kyle Sefcik of Damascus knew the music and fun activities the teens wanted for a summer night out.

‘‘I do a lot of these,” he said. ‘‘The kids are great. What’s better than listening to music and swimming with your buddies at the same time?”

Most teens stopped swimming for a few minutes when Sefcik played the ‘‘Cha Cha Slide.” About two dozen joined a group dance on the deck and waved glow sticks to the music. When the dance was over they jumped back in the water, laughing and chatting with renewed energy.

‘‘It is a good idea to have fun and get to meet friends,” said Savon Thomas, 13, of Gaithersburg. He was at the party with his sister, Niasia, 11, who was paddling around the pool on a big blue raft.

While the teens were having fun, recreation department staff was busy making sure they were safe.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies checked the perimeter of the pool grounds before the night began just to be sure no one was waiting to come in over the fence rather than through the gate.

After signing in and paying the $3 fee, teens were searched and had their bags checked.

Teens were not permitted to bring glass or plastic bottles, so several Gatorade and water bottles, along with baseball hats, bandanas and food, were marked with the teens’ names and saved to be returned at the end of the night.

They take away the bottles to ensure no alcohol gets into the parties, explained one deputy sheriff. Hats and ‘do rags might show gang affiliation so they are not allowed.

‘‘The kids don’t mind and parents know we search everyone who comes in,” Tyer-Ellis said. ‘‘It’s for everyone’s safety so they can feel good about leaving their teens here.”

The last party of this summer will be Friday at Western County Outdoor Pool in Poolesville.

To Swim

Montgomery County Recreation Department will hold a pool party for middle and high school students 8:30-11p.m. at Western County Outdoor Pool, 20151 Fisher Ave., Poolesville. School I.D. required or parents must sign in children. Cost is $3. Call 240-777-6985.