Boys & Girls Club’s new addition opens
MILFORD – Julia Arciere remembers what it felt like to be in eighth grade and not want to hang out with "little kids."
Arciere is a former "club kid," and now she is the teen director at the Boys & Girls Club of Souhegan Valley. She said she is thrilled with the new spaces created for teenagers in the club’s more than 13,700-square-foot addition that opened this month.
The typical pattern, she said, was for eighth- and ninth-graders to vanish from the club, and then start coming back to work as counselors in training when they were high school juniors or seniors.
The high-school-size gym and adjoining Chareth Family Teen Center are expected to keep more of those teenagers, not only because it gives them more to do, but also because it separates them from the "little kids" and gives them their own entrance.
The club, at 56 Mont Vernon St., has more than 750 members, most of whom are elementary and middle school age.
"We do lose a lot of kids when they hit eighth grade," Corey Sullivan, the club’s program director, said during a tour of the new facility. Teenagers "don’t want to feel like they’re mixed in with little kids."
The Teen Center has a giant living room with a large projector and a kitchen, with a refrigerator, coffee machine, microwave and healthy snack vending machine.
Off the big room is a conference room, an office and a small video-game room.
It still needs more furnishings, but last week, there were enough easy chairs to accommodate the dozen or so students from Milford and Souhegan high schools who were waiting for play rehearsal to start.
After Jan. 1, the club will have more of its hours and staff in place and will begin to hold instruction classes in basketball, volleyball and perhaps soccer, Sullivan said. After the new year, the Teen Center will stay open until 9 p.m.
"This is a true drop-in center for these guys," Sullivan said as he watched the cast of "West Side Story" play games and do homework together. "They come whenever they want and leave when they want to leave."
Another advantage of the addition: There are separate entrances, and the gym and Teen Center can be locked down when other activities, including performances at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts, are going on. In the past, Sullivan said, if a show was on, nothing else could take place in the building.
Arciere, who is 23 and a student at Granite State College, said the Teen Center also gives the kids a place to have "honest conversations" about things such as college affordability.
"I love this so much," she said. "We really struggled to find" a way to attract teenagers.
Last week, the high school students playing a makeshift game of Pictionary said they are excited about the new facility.
"It’s a great idea to give older kids their own space," Doug Pedroza said. "It’s got a good vibe."
"It was an empty space," Sean Corrigan said, "and now there’s an awesome gym."