The Milton Area Youth Center is just one way Jon Cruzan has helped Milton

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
— When Jon Cruzan moved to Milton from New England at age 16, his life changed.

He became more confident, more studious, more outgoing.

Maybe it was the tight church community that Cruzan had as the son of a Baptist minister. Or maybe it was the intimate atmosphere at tiny Milton College in the early 1970s that allowed him to shine as a student and an individual.

Or it could have been Milton's small-town environment, which Cruzan says always makes him feel at home volunteering his talents and ambitions to make the city a better place.

Cruzan, who works in human resources with Mercy Health System, is a Milton School Board member and has been a Neighborhood Watch organizer, among other volunteer posts.

Add organizer of the Milton Area Youth Center to that list.

After three youth heroin overdoses in Milton in 2009 and a rise in area youth crime, Cruzan, a member of Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church, formed a steering committee of city leaders, police and volunteers to make the faith-based Milton Area Youth Center happen.

The after-school youth center, which opened in March 2011 in the downstairs of Old Main on the former Milton College campus, now serves about 40 junior high students a day.

Months of work and planning by Cruzan and dozens of volunteers combined with a gut feeling by Cruzan and the Rev. Nate Crandall, pastor at Milton Seventh Day Baptist church, that Old Main was the perfect spot for the center.

Cruzan said things haven't changed much from when he was a college student hanging out in the lounge in Old Main.

"Time goes by, and it's always different kids. But they always have the same needs—to have a place to go, a place to be heard, a place to connect. If you're young and you don't connect, you simply fall out of everything," Cruzan said.

Milton Police Lt. John Conger worked with Cruzan on the youth center plan and on Neighborhood Watch. He said it's clear Cruzan wants all people in Milton—not just youths—to connect and to be heard.

Conger said Cruzan's attitude was one of the main reasons the youth center plans came through.

"When you go into a collaboration like a youth center, you're always going to have a lot of different voices," Conger said. "Jon is always willing to listen and take into consideration all other people's feelings and thoughts and put them into context in any situation."

Cruzan credits the network of people he's worked with on local committees and boards, including those working to make the youth center a success. He says they're all part of the core of a city that's changed and shaped his life.

He hopes the new life in Old Main can do the same for young people.

"It's the right niche, the right community, the right people—that's the only way that something like this can happen," Cruzan said.

Last updated: 7:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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