BOWLING GREEN - If Bowling Green had a teen center, 14-year-old Kai Swinney would spend time there.
"I'd go to that - no question - if there were a teen center right now," he said. "It's a place to socialize. Because I'm home-schooled, I don't really get to socialize that much."
Talk of opening a teen center this fall in the Veteran's Building at City Park is gaining much support.
A public meeting will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow in Wood County District Public Library to further discuss the proposed center, said Linda Dobb, executive vice president of Bowling Green State University.
"When my child was that age I always thought there was a need for something like this. When I
was down at the public library and saw teens hanging out it seemed like there's still a need for it," Ms. Dobb said.
Bowling Green Area Community Partnership, Community Coalition for Youth and Families, and Teen Center, a BGSU student group led by Ms. Dobb, are behind the effort.
Results of a university survey showed teens "want a place with enough supervision to feel safe. They also wanted a place with access to the outside," said Hugh Caumartin, superintendent of Bowling Green City Schools.
The center will be open primarily during park hours and serve the nearly 500 students in junior high.
"It will be a spot after school primarily for junior high [students]," Ms. Dobb said. "One or two nights a week we'd like to open it up to older teens for concert, poetry readings - whatever they're interested in."
About $22,000 is needed to get the teen center operating, Ms. Dobb said. State, local, and federal grants are being sought. Fund-raisers are being planned, and private donations are being solicited.
"The university kids are really excited about doing the fund-raiser thing," Ms. Dobb said. They're already gathering donations - Ping-Pong tables, televisions, foosball tables to put in the building.
Once the center opens, university students will pretty much run it, Ms. Dobb said. "We're working on a class that will go with their volunteering," she said.
University students will learn how to engage teens in activities, to lend an ear, and be trained to know when someone is in trouble and needs to speak to a professional.
"I really want them to become role models for the teenagers in this town," Ms. Dobb said. She's hoping AmeriCorps workers will coordinate the volunteer staff its first year.
The Veteran's Building is a good fit for the proposed center, said Michelle Grigore, Bowling Green City Parks and Recreation director. "The Veteran's Building is pretty indestructible space." It's located near play fields and an inline skating rink.
"Historically, it was the site of a teen center years ago," she said. In 1978 the former Children Services Board, now known as the Children's Resource Center, ran the center. It remained at the park about a year and transferred to Wood County Fairgrounds. The building that housed it was falling apart so the center closed in 1989, according to the center.
Ms. Dobb said she and others visited the Neutral Zone, a thriving teen center in Ann Arbor, to get some ideas.
"I think the involvement and participation in the teen center will fluctuate, varying on what sports and things kids are involved in," Mr. Caumartin said. "I think it will ebb and flow as the year goes along."
Kai believes kids will use the center. While hanging out at the library on February afternoon, he was handed a flyer seeking a focus group of teens to talk about the center, and thought, "•' Hey, that would be a great idea. I should go to this.' So here I am."
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