NEWMAN - The city’s teen center on Hardin Road is sporting a fresh look and new offerings to cater to its middle school and high school-aged clientele.
Recreation Director Alicia Mendoza said the teen center has been, and will continue to be, a work in progress as the upgrades continue.
A fresh coat of paint, new flooring and fresh layout have completely changed the look of the interior, Mendoza said, and updated gaming systems and other activities are in place to entertain visitors.
Mendoza said she believes the new setting will generate greater attendance while providing a safe and supervised after-school alternative for teens.
Nearby Orestimba High School previously offed an after-school program, but discontinued that offering this year.
Upgrading the teen center was a goal for Mendoza since assuming the recreation duties, she said.
Whether it was the availability of the nearby OHS after-school program or simply that the center was in need of renovation to be more appealing to teens, she said, attendance from the start was not what she believed it could be.
“When I first came into this position I noticed that kids weren’t really coming into the teen center,” Mendoza related. “The Orestimba decision (was a contributing factor), but this was still going to be upgraded no matter what. This is valuable to keep teens off the streets. They can come in here and enjoy various activities.”
Input from the teens helped guide the renovation, she noted.
“We asked the kids what they would like to have. They wanted a homier vibe to the center, so that was what we planned. It turned into a project to make it more geared toward junior high and high school students,” Mendoza explained.
The updated gaming and entertainment systems have been popular among visitors, she said, but the air hockey game and ping pong table are also well-used.
A large screen is in place which can be used for television, homework, or as a gaming console.
“We make sure that everything they watch is appropriate,” Mendoza stated.
Food is offered, and a space is set aside for homework.
Those who simply want to hang out and visit are welcome to do just that.
Recreation staff has taken a hands-on role in the renovation, she noted. Mendoza said all the painting was done by the three recreation assistants.
“They painted one wall at a time. They are the ones who took the initiative,” she stated.
The teen center, conveniently located between the city’s skate park and Matteri Field, is open from 2:30-6 p.m. weekdays.
“We open up earlier when the high school has minimum days,” Mendoza noted. “We cater to their schedule.”
A staff member is always present to provide supervision.
The transformation has been well received, Mendoza added.
“The teens say that it is a homey feeling. They like the changes,” she reflected. “They like the atmosphere, and they listen to the rules more than they did before. The whole structure of the place has changed. I think it has created a good ambience.”
And perhaps most importantly, she concluded, the center provides a place teens can call their own while being in a safe, enjoyable after-school environment.
“Our community needs a place like this for them to have,” Mendoza said. “This is theirs.”