Middle school and high school students now have a place to call their own at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Umpqua Valley.
The club’s upstairs teen center opened last week after months of construction.
“We weren’t able to serve middle and high school students adequately. We started evaluating what we could do up here,” club board member Lance Colley said Tuesday.
The club serves approximately 2,800 kids and about 300 are at the club on Cedar Street every day after school. Some 75 to 80 are middle and high school students, the club’s executive director, Kris Besson, said.
Besson said there was a room reserved for students 13 and older downstairs, but there was still too much intermixing of younger and older students.
“It’s been a positive change. I think everyone has been energized by it,” she said. “Just in a week, we’ve noticed a changing atmosphere.”
Construction on the upstairs center started in June. Contractors opened a back wall to bring in materials. The club remained open during the work.
The teen center includes a fine arts studio and computer lab. The club plans to offer medical, dental and vision screening in another room and is finishing a music room with a sound studio.
Students on Tuesday were doing homework in the cyber cafe, which will eventually serve food. Although it’s called a teen center, the second-story will be for all middle school and high school students, including sixth- and seventh-graders who are younger than 13.
“I thought it was pretty cool we could go upstairs and have our own space,” said sixth-grader Gavyn Twyman, 11. “It was kind of crowded downstairs with kids of all ages. It’s a lot better. We have more space and we are not running into littler kids.”
Previously, there wasn’t room downstairs to include the younger middle school students with the teenagers.
“There were issues because some kids couldn’t be with all of their friends. It was a weird separation,” the club’s middle school coordinator, Kristin Frazier, said.
The teen center has made the club less hectic, she said.
“I like all the room we have. I think the kids really enjoy going to the art and tech rooms and having their own area,” Frazier said. “I’ve seen a lot of positive behavior changes. Different kids have been stepping up as leaders and role models that didn’t before.”
About 18 staff members oversee students and classes at the club.
Besson said the teen center will soon offer art and music classes, and classes on exploring colleges and careers.
Sixth-grader Isabella Graham, 11, who has attended the club since the first grade, said she is looking forward to taking a photography class.
“I like the upstairs. There’s a different maturity level up here. It’s easier on everyone,” she said. “Before the teen center, we had to hang out downstairs. I didn’t like it very much because there were a lot of people and too many age groups.”
The club’s board of directors had been talking about adding a teen center since 2008, Colley said. “We wanted to make sure we could sustain it,” he said.
Fundraising took about a year.
The Ford Family Foundation contributed about $300,000 to the project. An anonymous donor gave $50,000, and the club raised about $200,000. The rest of the funds came from in-kind donations and grants, Besson said.
Perry Murray, a Roseburg contractor, volunteered as the project manager. Roseburg’s FCC Commercial Furniture designed the center’s furnishings, Colley said.
The club has already set its sights on a another project. It plans to reconstruct a parking lot and create additional street access this summer.
The total project cost of the teen center and outside remodel will be about $1.15 million, Besson said.
“We are so thankful for the community helping us with the vision we’ve had,” Besson said. “We are really proud of the (center) and thrilled with what we can do. The expansion makes it so much more effective to serve kids.”
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.