A second home for local teens

Kyle Reynolds and Kyle Reynolds

Seventh grader Eclipse Stockwell used to go to the library or just go home and watch TV after school but thanks to University students, staff and the community she now has somewhere else to go – The BG Teen Center.

The center opened in September and is directed by Niki Messmore of AmeriCorps, and staffed by student volunteers.

Its purpose is to provide a safe and fun atmosphere for seventh and eighth graders in Bowling Green, Messmore said.

Seventh and eighth graders can come to the center after school is over to hang out and make some new friends.

Daily activities for the teens include homework help, sports and board games, as well as special events.

‘We have special programs like female self-defense classes, movie nights and theme parties,’ Messmore said. ‘We want to provide teens with opportunities.’

The idea for the center came from Linda Dobb, executive vice president of the University, a couple of years ago when she noticed teens didn’t have a good place to go after school.

‘I was at the public library and noticed the police were there because some rowdy teens were causing a disturbance,’ Dobb said. ‘I thought there needs to be other places other than the library to hang out because since it’s [the library] supposed to be a quiet place it isn’t an ideal place for them to hang out.’

Dobb consulted students like senior Tom Bethany and they developed a plan for the center.

The city wanted to follow through with the project and had a building that the teens could use, The Veteran’s Building in City Park.

In order to get the center started Dobb knew she would have to get trained student volunteers, so she worked with Professor Laura Landry-Meyer to develop a course to train students, FCS 480, Youth Program Development. Students interested in volunteering should take the course.

Courtney Hanley, sophomore, is currently enrolled in FCS 480 and volunteers at the center. As part of the course, Hanley said she keeps a journal of what happens at the center and helps develop programming for the teens.

The teens think the center has been beneficial for them and has given them something to do.

Stockwell is glad she has place to go where she can meet new people and play kickball and volleyball.

‘I’ve made at least five new friends here,’ Stockwell said.

Eighth grader Megan Willem thinks the center gives her more options for after school activities than before.

‘It’s fun and a real nice place to hang out,’ Willem said. ‘I used to just watch TV and sit around, go to the library or sometimes be lazy and draw.’

The center’s goals for the upcoming year are to spread the word about the center, have more activities outside of the center’s usual hours (Monday-Thursday 2:30-5:30), more student involvement and hopefully have high school students at the center.

There was also a concern in the community over several suicides by high school students in the community over the past few years, Bethany said.

‘There were a lot of suicides in a short time and people were asking, ‘what is happening?” Bethany said. ‘We felt that reaching out to teens in junior high, when their identity starts forming would help stop the number of suicides in high school.’

From 1999-2006, eight teenagers committed suicide in Bowling Green, according to the Toledo Blade.

Bethany, board member for the center, is optimistic that the program will help teens as they develop.

‘Hopefully it will pay off down the road,’ Bethany said. ‘We want to create opportunities for the teens since there isn’t much to do in this town and hopefully we can end this quiet crisis.’

The center has received a lot of community support and aid from student organizations after it was robbed last week.

A 40-inch HDTV, two computers, three Playstations, movies and video games were stolen from the center.

The Inter-Fraternity Council has donated $500 to the center and people have donated things like computers since the robbery.

‘People want to help,’ Dobb said. ‘When so many people do kind things it really makes you have faith in the goodness of human beings.’