Thursday, March 18, 2004

Teen center opens today

N.Ky. debut at Marge Schott-Unnewehr Boys & Girls Club

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Since the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati opened the organization's first teen center last November, employees have had to shoo youths away at closing.

"We close at 8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and the kids want to hang out until 9 p.m.," said Charles Law, an adult teen center adviser at the LeBlond Club in Over-the-Rhine. "On Friday, we close at 10 - and I'm still trying to kick them out the door at 10:15."

What: Celebration marking the opening of the second teen center by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati

Where: Marge Schott-Unnewehr Club, 30 W. 26th St., Covington

When: 5-7 p.m. today

Features: Computer labs, physical fitness and weight-training room, lounge and study areas. Teens can get help with homework, brush up on computer skills, explore colleges and careers or hang out with friends.

Today, the public can visit Northern Kentucky's first teen center at the Marge Schott-Unnewehr Club in Covington. The teen center, second in the area, features a fitness room, computer labs, and a lounge. It will be dedicated at 5 p.m.

The Covington center was developed with support from Fischer Homes. Volunteers from Americorps, a national service group, also helped the organization save about $30,000 by doing the demolition and site preparation and visited local schools to recruit members for the center.

"It's just a good place to hang out and not have that second option of hanging out on the streets,'' Law said.

In Covington, 75 percent of the club's 911 members are from single-parent households and live below the poverty line, said Amy Leroux, spokeswoman for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati. Besides providing adult role models, the club offers a safe haven, a supportive environment and a place where "kids can be kids and just enjoy themselves,'' she said.

Eventually, Boys & Girls Club president Lawra Baumann hopes to open centers in Avondale, Newport and Lower Price Hill by renovating existing clubs or opening satellite centers.

Supporters hope the centers will help reverse the drop-ff in membership when kids at the five Greater Cincinnati clubs become teenagers. Of the 7,500 youths served last year, only about 20 percent were ages 14 to 18.

In checking with the more successful Boys & Girls Clubs nationally, one of the common components was teen centers, Baumann said.

"What I kept seeing in the more successful clubs was teen center space and programming for teens and close partnerships with schools," she said.

At the LeBlond Club, overall membership has increased about 20 percent since the teen center opened. Now it draws about 25 to 30 teens a day, Law said.

"The best marketing (for teen centers) is word of mouth - teens talking to other teens,'' Baumann said.


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