Serving teenagers is vital to fulfilling our vision to ensure all youth who enter Club doors are on track to graduate from high school with a plan for the future. That said, serving teens is often easier said than done. It requires a special combination of ingredients to attract and retain them as they move through the middle- and high-school years. Having the right space is at the top of the list.
Recently, I attended the opening of the new Boys & Girls Club of Brookings Teen Center in Brookings, South Dakota. The stand-alone facility has all the right stuff for teens. It also doesn’t hurt that teens helped design it. Interior spaces were created to be transformable and functional for different activities – like robotics, career development, cooking and studying. Fun, of course, is always a priority, so there’s a movie theater and music space, as well.
The new center was packed with teens on its opening day. In a brief presentation, Executive Director Vanessa Merhib explained how the new facility will affect teens and their families.
This organization is doing so much for kids in Brookings and the surrounding area. They opened another Teen Center just eight months ago in a town 15 miles away. They’re also breaking ground on a site this August in Yankton. Despite being a relatively new organization (founded in 2004), they have engaged the community in many ways and are creating great futures every day!
A detached site is one approach to serving teens. But every Clubhouse can create a space for teens to call their own. A great example is the Boys & Girls Club in Menasha, Wisconsin - the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley’s newest unit. The community came together to make this new Club a reality, with a committee led by local business person John Bergstrom.
It was exciting to see how the facility was designed to serve all youth. The Teen Center occupies the second floor, with the ground level reserved for younger children.
Fox Valley CEO Greg Lemke-Rochon and his team took extensive steps to ensure all the elements for a successful Teen Center were in place. Just like in Brookings, teens helped with the facility’s design function by creating a model site. The 33,600-square-foot facility includes a STEM center, robotics lab and 7,500-square-foot gymnasium. It also has two age-distinct learning centers, a technology center and dedicated spaces for art, music, drama, dance, recreation and counseling.
Congratulations to our friends in Menasha, Brookings and Yankton for bringing these brand new Boys & Girls Clubs on line. Thanks to you, the kids and teens of your communities have safe, fun spots to call their own.