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."