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What Do You Do When Your After-School Center Is Closed? Build A ‘Minecraft’ Replica

Youth Go Also Using Snapchat, Facebook, Discord To Connect With Students

Students in the Fox Valley are creating a virtual after-school center on Minecraft after theirs had to close due to the coronavirus
Students in the Fox Valley are creating a virtual after-school center on Minecraft after theirs had to close due to the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of Megan Kees

The new coronavirus outbreak has closed Wisconsin schools. But a Neenah after-school center was open for business Monday afternoon. Or at least an online replica was.

Youth Go, Inc. provides homework help, meals and activities for middle and high schoolers. The organization sees about 40 students on an average day, said support and wellness coordinator Megan Kees.

Like many places across the state, Youth Go has had to close its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then one of its staff members had an idea: Why not create an online version of Youth Go using the video game “Minecraft”?

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With more than 100 million copies sold, “Minecraft” is one of the most popular video games in the world. Players can explore, mine for raw materials, build cities and more.

Now, Youth Go staff and students are working together to create a digital version of their own facility in the game.

“It’s definitely keeping our kids connected to both us and to each other,” Kees said.

Some students are mining for resources. In addition to the Youth Go building, they’re working to create a shop for their collective “Minecraft” world, Kees said. In the game, players can chat with each other and even collaborate on projects.

“They’re all kind of doing different things, but all together to create the best world that they can,” she said.

Youth Go is hosting “Minecraft” sessions three times a week. Players can access the game on a variety of devices including computers, phones and video game consoles, Kees said. To access Youth Go’s digital world, players must be added to the server by a staff member, she said.

An interior view of one of Youth Go's Minecraft buildings
Students and staff from Neenah’s Youth Go are using Minecraft to connect during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo courtesy of Megan Kees

Staff from Youth Go are also using Snapchat, Facebook and Discord, a chat software, to keep in touch with students while they can’t see them in person, Kees said. In most cases, the technology comes more naturally to the students than the staff, she noted.

Since school closed in March, about 30 students have connected with Youth Go through its new digital offerings. That number is continuing to grow, Kees said. All area middle and high school students are welcome to join in.

“Even if it’s just during this time that they’re utilizing our services, finding an activity that they enjoy, helping build things in “Minecraft” or taking part in our trivia, that’s totally OK,” she said.

Youth Go is also making weekly food deliveries to its students.

Kees said it’s nice to be able to provide some semblance of normalcy to children in the Neenah and Menasha areas.

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