There is a new place for teenagers to hang out in central Independence.
A $1.6 million Teen Center opened this week at The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City’s Independence Unit, 315 South Leslie Avenue, that features a full music recording studio, a commons area with an 80-inch television and Playstation 4, weight and conditioning room, computer lab for graphic design/research, a study den and conference room for tutoring.
It's $15 per year, plus a two-page application that can be filled out at http://www.bgc-gkc.org/get-involved/join-the-club, for area teenagers to join.
The Independence Unit held a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday to introduce the public to the new Teen Center. The expansion will be available for teens ages 13 to 18 and will be open during the Independence Unit’s regular hours of operation: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during summer vacation.
Besides the recreational focus, academics and character building are emphasized at the center as well, said Teen Services Director Jamel Malone. The 5,000-square-foot facility’s expansion, which also included its gymnasium to be renovated with new flooring and air conditioning, is to support The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City’s vision for 100 percent of its active members to graduate high school and have a post-secondary education plan. Not only will area teens have access to the Center’s features, but also a variety of activties outside the center are scheduled, such as touring college campuses during the current summer break.
“Teens will also be engaged in programs that support their community like Habitat for Humanity, as well as different basketball tournaments in the new gym,” added Malone on what else is slated for teenagers in the summer. “The goal is provide role models in an environment that allows them to stay out of trouble.”
The word is spreading fast about the new center too, Malone said. So far eight teens have joined the club in the last two days. Currently there are around 60 teenagers who are members at the Independence Unit and the new Center can support up to 175 teens, he added. Three new support staff members, along with Malone, have been added at the Teen Center as well.
“It’s C and C here at the Club,” Malone said. “We don’t compete with school activities, but instead complement them by providing additional resources for students.”
Many community leaders stressed the importance in supporting the overlooked demographic during Tuesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, pointing out they will soon be future employees at local companies and that now is the time to establish positive relationships with them.
“Not many want to tackle teens,” Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City President Dave Smith told those in attendance. “We (Teen Center) are preparing them before they are kicked out of the nest.”
“The greatest crisis in our society is our teenagers,” said Independence Police Chief Tom Daley. “Bad influences are more readily available. You have no idea how much you help change a child (for the better). This (Teen Center) is absolutely instrumental in that.”
Daley later added that every weekend his department receives calls on incidents involving teens, but now the Teen Center hopes to remedy that ongoing problem.
“They (teens) now have a choice to hang out at a tremendously positive place.”