Teen center offers an Island getaway for young people
Korilee Connelly and Nikki Brown stand-by while Adam Lanoie attempts to run the table. Photos by Ralph Stewart
The YMCA teen center opened its doors for a second season last Saturday night, energized by the presence of teens enjoying a place to hang out.
Although turnout was a little lighter than last year's opening due to the combination of a rainy night and a holiday weekend, co-director Anna Luckey said, "We had a lot of the regular kids who were here last year, and had clearly waited with bated breath for it to reopen!"
Josh Coleman, 17, a junior at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School and an "alumnus" who enjoyed the center last year, said he had been looking forward to the reopening. "It's just fun being here," said Josh. "I spend every day this place is open here."
Many people come to the center when it gets into full swing, he said, making it a good place to socialize.
Downstairs at the two-story center at Cottager's Corner on Pequot Avenue in Oak Bluffs, the sounds of pool balls rolling into the pocket and ping-pong balls bouncing punctuated the conversation.
Pat Madeiros staffed the kitchen, back as a volunteer from last year. She remembers enjoying spending time at a youth center herself in the 1960s. "It's nice to have a place for the kids," she said, adding that she hopes her 12-year-old grandson will enjoy the center as a teen as well.
Talk and the tube, something for everyone at the Teen Center.
Leslie Frizzell, another volunteer, provided a tantalizing array of oversized cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. Empty boxes on the counters were the only evidence left of pizza. This year, the center is trying something new in the food department.
"We are going to hire teens to cook. It gives them a sense of ownership," said Eric Adams, co-director of the center. Although he is not sure how receptive the teens will be, he said he also hopes to include some healthy items on the food menu.
The teen center will be open Thursday 2-8 pm, Friday 2-11 pm, Saturday 4-11 pm, and Sunday 4-8 pm. Although the center will start charging a membership fee at the end of October, $15 covers the cost for the entire school year. "If anyone has a problem with the fee, we have scholarships," said Mr. Adams. "We won't turn anyone away for lack of their ability to pay."
Looking around him on Saturday night during a break in a fierce pool battle, he smiled and remarked, "I catch the energy of the kids."
A trip upstairs reveals the sight of a new sectional couch that looked inviting in its strategic location in front of a big-screen television complete with a DVD and VCR player. At the other end of the room, teens played a fast-paced "Dance Revolution" game, using hand-held controls. Nearby was a beanbag chair that completely wrapped itself around this weary reporter like a Venus flytrap plant, perfect for observing the teens' manual dexterity in a helpless state of envy.
Mindful of the on-line generation, the second floor also offers a computer station, with two PC's and two brand-new MacIntosh computers, just in this week thanks to a donation from the Rotary Club.
Several activities are on the center's agenda for the new season, including a Halloween costume party this month and perhaps a haunted house offered by the teens for Island children. Off-Island trips to a shopping mall, movie nights, pool tournaments and a filmmaking workshop using the new MacIntosh computers also are in the works.
Quinn Retmeir scorches a pingpong backhand.
Last year's popular battle of the bands and open mike and concert nights will be offered again, said Mr. Adams. "We're hoping with more programs to draw new kids in that haven't been here yet," he said. "It's definitely a learning process. We're offering more organized programming, more off-site events this year. At first, what the kids wanted was a place of their own, and of course, they can always come here and do what they want to do."
The center opened last March through the efforts of the Supporting League of Ideas and Projects (SLIP), a teen-run youth group of the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard. SLIP received $17,000 in grant money to help fund the teen center. The majority of the grant, $12,000, given by the local Alexandra M.M. Gagnon Foundation, went towards rent on Cottager's Corner, which is also covering the rent this year.
SLIP also applied for several other grants to help support the center and its programs. Through a wish list placed with the Martha's Vineyard Donors Collaborative, the teen center received donations that paid for many of the furnishings and entertainment equipment.
Cam LaPierre, 15, a sophomore at the charter school, said he also enjoyed the teen center last year. What brings him back? "It's a nice place to chill out, just calm down," he explained. "You meet a lot of new people." He said he would like to join SLIP this year, and work on getting attendance up at the center through more advertising.
Last Sunday, the teen center also held its first open house for parents from 4-6 pm. "We had a few parents, and a few members from the community in general stop in to check it out," said Ms. Luckey. "Hopefully we may do those periodically throughout the year."