Monday, March 17, 2008

Teen center celebrates one-year anniversary


One year after officially opening its doors to local youth, the Twelve35 teen center in Santa Barbara opened its doors a little wider on Monday, giving interested community members a look inside during an open house celebration.
Along with free cake and refreshments, organizers handed out information about membership and scholarships while lauding the success of the center, named after its 1235 Chapala St. location, during its inaugural year.

“I know for a fact that there are some teens who come here every day, and if not every day, then every other day,” said Susan Young, the city’s supervisor of teen programs. “Those are the teens we are really trying to reach, because they obviously don’t have anything else to keep them busy.”
More than 300 local teens hold memberships at the center, available annually for a $15 fee. Partial and full scholarships are also offered and anyone aged 13 to 18 is welcome to apply for membership.
“If they’re going to school around here, if they are going to be in town for a few months during the summer, and they are teens, we welcome them to come down,” said Cyrus Alexander, a teen center coordinator.
Youth leaders who work at the facility said they have about 30 teens hanging out and taking part in activities during the summer, with that average dipping to approximately 16 during the school year. The facility has an occupancy of 49.
“I’ve seen some new faces around today, which has been pretty cool,” Alexander said.
As organizers took visiting parents on tours of the facility, a group of teens gathered around the foosball and pool tables for a few quick games as others worked away in the music recording studio.
Eduardo, 14, said he has been visiting the center fairly regularly since it opened last year and enjoys the relaxed atmosphere.
“I just like that you can come here with your friends or meet other people you don’t know and make new friends,” he said. “…You can be here and be safe and stay out of trouble.”
If he didn’t have the teen center to hang out, Eduardo said he’d “probably be at home, bored or something, or out in the streets.”
In addition to pool and foosball, the center features an air hockey table, a study/computer room, plenty of video games, and a multipurpose room that hosts dance classes and movie nights.
“It’s so chill,” said Chris McDermut, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School. “Just stop by and check it out on your way home from school, play some pool.”
McDermut chairs the city’s Youth Council and served as chair of the Teen Center Advisory Committee during the planning stage of Twelve35. He said the group helped plan the center, from activities to paint colors and layout.
“It’s always been something I’m really proud of,” he said. “It completely serves its purpose, but I’d like to see tons more teens here. … I just want to see this place packed.”
On Tuesday, the weeklong celebration of the center’s one-year anniversary continues with a Guitar Hero contest from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors can also enjoy a low-rider bike show at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and a teen art show and art wall contest at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Organizers are planning to top off the festivities with the Twelve35 Party on Friday night from 7 to 11 p.m. — open only to members and featuring DJs, live performances, raffles, a karaoke lounge, and movie screenings. For more information, including rental availability, call 882-1235.
Young said she is encouraged by the amount of people who took part in Monday's open house and invited the public to come out to the remaining events. She also stressed that she doesn’t look at the volume of visitors as a measure of success.
“Just the one matters,” she said.

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