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Watch now: The Vault continues to support Clinton teens, despite COVID complications
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Watch now: The Vault continues to support Clinton teens, despite COVID complications

From the How we are: 6 Bloomington-Normal residents tell personal stories about life during COVID-19 series
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The Pantagraph has been following six area residents since the spring and speaking with them about how life has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked to them recently about Thanksgiving.

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CLINTON — More than 400 area youth remain active with The Vault, a Clinton teen center that opened in fall 2018. But social distancing and recommendations to stay at home make it tough, said the founder and program director, Michelle Witzke.

“We are doing our best to make it through this challenging time,” Witzke said.

Last week, officials with The Vault had to re-adjust their plans once again, following the decision by the Clinton School District to discontinue in-school education.

Superintendent Curt Nettles said DeWitt County's recent increase in positive cases meant that a number of students and staff members had to stay home after they were identified as the close contact of someone who tested positive. “We feel that not only instruction will be affected, but we fear the impact on our food service, transportation and maintenance staff will happen as well,” Nettles said. 

With that announcement, Witzke said social activities at The Vault also had to be changed.

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“Since our policies usually reflect the schools’, we had to scramble to figure out what to do,” she said.

During the fall, students have practiced social distancing, but have participated in a number of events, wearing masks, and limiting the number of participants. But beginning Nov. 30, The Vault will only offer limited programs and services, by appointment only, between 2 and 4 p.m. Monday through Fridays.

Enrichment classes, student support services, and tutoring will continue.

“More and more, we are recognizing how vital The Vault is to this community and providing support for not only our teens, but for their families as well,” Witzke said. “We are committed to trying to find the right balance between providing appropriate mental health support while at the same time protecting them against COVID.”

Witzke helped raise more than $400,000 to turn a vacant tanning and hair salon on the Square in Clinton into a community center for teens that opened in the fall of 2018.

The Vault has turned to social media to communicate with the students and the community. Every Thursday is Thank You Thursday, where officials thank those in the community for their support and post pictures of activities involving area youth.


Clinton honors graduates

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Related to this story

Ethan Aughenbaugh and Olivia Earl both remember The Vault before it was The Vault. Both are among several student leaders that have kept the concept of The Vault, a place for DeWitt County youth to connect with during the pandemic.

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