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Hangin' with the big kids

Ashley Backer, Rae Fenske, Sarah Archer, Gary Kilian and Christa Ahrens show the kids how to do fall-themed arts and crafts at last month's "Parents' Night Out" event at Red Rock Elementary. Staff photo by Louise Ernewein

What better way for parents to get a night off from the kids than to have other, older kids take care of them?

That's the idea behind Parents' Night Out, a project of the District 833 Community Youth Council, which took place at Red Rock Elementary School last month.

About 50 teenagers from Woodbury, Cottage Grove and around the district turned out to offer their services during the three-hour night of activities for kids aged three to 11.

And, according to the high school students who supervised the evening (along with staff from Community Education), the young children are super-excited about getting to spend the time with them.

"The kids seem to have fun; they get to run around and they like hanging out with the older kids," explained Alex Henderson, a senior from Park High School.

"I've heard the kids cry because they don't want to leave," added Sarah Archer, a Math and Science Academy student from Cottage Grove. "It's sad, but it's good to know they have enjoyed it."

While the young kids' parents enjoy an evening out and about, or simply catch up on chores, their offspring get to munch on pizza slices, make holiday-themed cookies and arts and crafts, play dodgeball and other activities, or watch a movie.

With just a week to go until Oct. 31, last month's activities were all Halloween-themed, with participants able to decorate their own sugar cookies with suitably scary images or create their own pumpkin art.

Woodbury High School senior Alyssa Hager was at her first event with the Community Youth Council. She said kids seemed to be enjoying watching "Bee Movie," playing with Lego bricks and coloring.

"I like the fact you have a bunch of opportunities to volunteer [with the Community Youth Council]," said Hager. "It's not like other things I have been in, where it's very strict and you have to do a certain number of hours; you can do what you want."

The Community Youth Council organizes a number of events throughout the year. One highlight -- a favorite with both the older students and the younger ones -- is the Bedtime Story Hotline.

It's a project which sees the seventh through 12th-graders manning phone lines at the District Service Center in Cottage Grove so young kids throughout South Washington County can call in and request a bedtime story be read over the phone to them.

Next month, from Dec. 8-10, elementary students can call (651) 458-6616 between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and a teen volunteer will read them a story.

For more information or to apply to join the Community Youth Council, visit and click on "Youth."