Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE - For most community members, Friday night’s ribbon-cutting at the new teen center at Pierson Park was the first opportunity to see inside the soon-to-open hangout.
It’s not a stretch to conclude that nearly all were impressed with the light-filled, soaring structure adjacent to the McKinleyville Activity Center in Pierson Park.
The McKinleyville Teen and Community Center, a project nearly six years in development, planning and construction is an “it takes a village” effort. McKinleyville Community Services District identified a need to better serve the town’s teens; the voters approved a property tax assessment to fund the center’s construction; the 12-member McKinleyville Youth Leadership Society (MYLES) surveyed middle and high school students to determine the desired programs and provided input for the center’s design; SH Cowell Foundation and community members opened their wallets and finally, the Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods signed on to manage the center.
Once inside the angular facade, visitors examined the classroom, the music studio, the future kitchen, chatted in the spacious lobby/game room/lounge area, peeked at the quiet study room while nibbling refreshments and listening to Northcoast Preparatory Academy musicians perform.
Those gathered included MCSD board members, Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods board members, 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg (the recipient of a spontaneous Happy Birthday chorus) and many others, from staff to MYLS to interested residents.
Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods Executive Director Liz Smith said the organization is in the process of hiring a director for the center. Among the activities planned for the center are cooking classes, gardening activities, a music program, a good citizenship/character program and working with the participants on academic success.
The results of the MYLS survey were posted, showing some of the activities of particular interest to Northern Humboldt teens. One of the popular desires, according to the youth surveyed, was cooking classes. More than 50 percent of those questioned said they would enroll in such courses if offered.
Several pieces of furniture - borrowed for the event - included tags noting their value and invitation to purchase for the center. Organizers are currently hoping to raise $100,000 to furnish the nearly complete facility.
What may make the McKinleyville Teen and Community Center unique among similar facilties elsewhere is the involvement of teens in determining almost everything from design to programs offered.
“This is their vision happening,” MCSD Youth Program Director Jesse Miles said.
The teens surveyed, for example, stressed a desire for natural light and redwood in the building’s construction. Both were abundant in the central open space.
It’s been 20 years since the Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods opened a teen center in Eureka. Since that time, the club has gradually expanded its programs to areas outside of Eureka including an afterschool program in Loleta and summer programs in Arcata and Fortuna.
There’s long been an interest in serving the students of the Northern Humboldt area, Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods board member Lyn Scott said.
“This really has been the best opportunity,” he said.
One of the keys, Scott added, is the ability to invite teens in a manner that will succeed in earning their participation. Boys and Girls Club of the Redwoods staff members have that skill well tuned, he said.
“It has to be a space the teens want to be in as well,” Scott said.
Both MCSD General Manager Greg Orsini and Smith thanked the community for their steadfast support of the center.
“Thank you for welcoming us in your community,” Smith told an attentive crowd.
The Boys and Girls Club executive director reminded everyone there is still an opportunity to help - particularly in furnishing the center.
“There’s another $100,000 that needs to be raised,” she said.
The McKinleyville Teen and Community Center grand opening is set for early June. Fifth District Supervisor Sundberg credited the staff and residents’ efforts for making that happen.
“This is so fantastic,” he said. “I’m very proud of this community. It’s just absolutely fabulous.”