Ten years ago, when the Santa Clara Teen Center opened on January 25, 2003 Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was the top song in the country. The iPhone hadn’t been invented yet and Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis was incubating in her mother’s womb. Things sure have changed.
Since its initial opening, the Teen Center has gone through some minor changes, but one thing remains the same: the Center is the hub of all things teen in Santa Clara. To honor the Center’s students, the Santa Clara Teen Center celebrated its 10th birthday on Friday with a barbeque, balloon stomp, cake commemorating the achievement, and game of scavenger hunt musical chairs.
“At our staff meeting this afternoon we looked around the table and realized that almost everyone was a past participant,” said Recreation Coordinator Jon Kawanda. “We do our best to hire staff that can be role models for the students, so hopefully that speaks a little bit on what we try to do here – make them feel part of a family.” In additional to an after school drop-in program that includes use of the facility’s computer lab, homework room, and activity room equipped with a ping pong table, café, Xbox, and pool table, the Teen Center coordinates events like student dances and the ever-popular Black and Blue Olympics. “We’ve really built something special,” said Recreation Coordinator “DJ Rich” Casem. “Not a lot of places in the whole Bay Area have something like this where we’re actually open to high school kids – our events are really big.” Originally the center was open only to high school students, but it has grown to include eighth graders. “We found that once high school students got a car and by the time they’re 16, they’re elsewhere,” said Recreation Program Supervisor Jennifer Herb who has been with the center for the last decade. “The Youth Activity Center was busting at the seams with eighth graders because we’re on a middle school campus. So, we said “let’s try to alleviate their population and get the eighth graders over here, which has given [YAC] room to grow.”
“Our goal [for the future] is that we can add classes here – after school enrichment,” continued Herb. “It could also be morning time classes when [the center] isn’t utilized as much because the kids are in school…Or, if there are classes elsewhere and it’s a teen class, maybe we can have it here and then open up space at the Community Recreation Center…We’re also in communication with the home school chapter in Santa Clara. We’re talking to them and show them what’s available to the students. There’s no reason why they couldn’t come here and hang out and play pool and ping pong for recreation or use the computer lab.”
Wilcox junior Sufyan Abbasi is a member of the Santa Clara Youth Commission and spends a fair amount of time at the center. “We meet here for two meetings every month…We also do a lot of events and they always encourage us to come to the Teen Center. My favorite event is BBO – the Black and Blue Olympics…It just unifies our school so much. We have competitions at our school and it’s between the classes but [at BBO] we all come together as a unified body to beat the school on Benton.”
The Teen Center’s Black and Blue Olympics, pitting Wilcox High School against Santa Clara, will be held April 5. For more information on the Teen Center visit http://santaclaraca.gov/index.aspx?page=245.