Family Pathways Teen Center’s online schedule of Princeton October activities included an Oct. 31 Halloween Costume Fall Fest scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m.
Four days later, the center at 605 Rum River Drive S. closed unexpectedly under a cloud of confusion.
When youth program participants arrived the afternoon of Nov. 4, the facility’s doors were locked.
More than two dozen kids were left outside in freezing weather wondering what to do next.
Family Pathways is a non-profit organization based in North Branch that operates Teen Centers in Forest Lake and Princeton. The centers are safe places for teens in grades six through 12.
The centers are led by professional youth development staff and trained volunteers who support and mentor youth in the areas of career development, healthy relationships, and substance abuse.
On Nov. 7, Family Pathways issued a news release that stated the Princeton Teen Center had temporarily closed to create space and an opportunity to evaluate needs, programming, and facility improvement possibilities.
“After months of connecting with partners, supporters and community members, Family Pathways has recently completed a robust three-year Strategic Plan,” the news release stated. The focus of this new plan highlights the emergent needs of our community and gaps that were identified in available services being provided.”
Included in this plan is a new future for youth programs and teen centers, the release stated.
Over the next couple of months, Family Pathways Chief Executive Officer Lisa Mears, youth program staff, and community youth leaders and partners will convene to identify the best system of support and define a roadmap to serve this population and their needs.
“For the next three years, Family Pathways will be working with an aggressive focus on the future,” the news release stated.
Four core competencies will guide the organization’s community work: Prevention and crisis intervention; a holistic, trauma-informed, person-centered approach; social connectedness and community engagement; and social enterprise that applies commercial strategies to maximize organizational well-being.
“The youth program is at the heart of these plans,” the release concluded.” Family Pathways is committed to creating opportunities for kids and teens to keep them safe, inspired and help them thrive.”
Victoria Hallin was lead youth specialist at Family Pathway’s Princeton Teen Center. Hallin recently told the Union-Times she had been terminated by the non-profit organization.
“I’ve been working with children and youth for about 40 years,” she said. “In Princeton, I started as a volunteer in 1988, and I continued volunteering until about 22 years ago, when the youngest of my four boys went into school.”
Hallin is an active member of the Princeton community. Previously, she ran for office as a Minnesota State Senator, and was a member of the Princeton City Council for 14 years, including time served as acting mayor.
She’s been an Economic Development Authority commissioner since 2005, serving as president of that commission, and she’s currently serving on the Princeton Planning Commission as its vice president.
On Monday, Nov. 4, Hallin was at Bremer Bank in Princeton attending a meeting of the Princeton Betterment Club when Family Pathways insisted that she come to North Branch immediately for a meeting.
“They shut the Teen Center down on Monday and didn’t notify the schools,” Hallin said. “They didn’t have anybody there to receive youth or deliveries that were coming in.”
Hallin said she was verbally terminated by Shelby Auer, Family Pathways human resources manager.
“They haven’t given me a concrete reason for terminating me,” she said. “I have possessions in the building, as do my volunteers. They are holding my stuff.”
Michelle Thomas is Family Pathways’ director of marketing and strategic partnerships.
She told the Union-Times the Nov. 7 news release would serve as the non-profit organization’s official response to the Princeton Teen Center’s closing.
“I can’t provide any additional details,” Thomas said. She did confirm that Family Pathways had two staff members at the Princeton Teen Center but could not comment on their status.
“We don’t know when it is going to reopen,” Thomas added.