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From 'Oh' to 'Woah': new Y Teen Center open to community

Kids at the YMCA summer programming look on as older children take advantage of the center’s skate park and teen center on a summer afternoon. The center is open for youth ages 12-18. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
The new YMCA Rotary Teen Center features a revamped space at the site of the original center next to the Y’s skate park. The center is free for all teens, even if they don’t have a YMCA membership. Rebecca Mariscal / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

The Hudson YMCA teen center used to be less than impressive.

Opened alongside the skate park 20 years ago, the center was housed in the nearby garage, about one car size, that had no heat, no indoor bathrooms and no electricity beyond the lights.

With a partnership with the Hudson Rotary Club, and a wave of outside donations, the new YMCA Rotary Teen Center is expanded and revamped, featuring a conference room, hang out space, concessions and of course, bathrooms.

The kids have noticed, YMCA Youth Development Program Manager Alyson Sauter said.

"Hear them go 'Woah' instead of 'Oh,'" Sauter said.

Most importantly, the new YMCA Rotary Teen Center is free for all teens, even if they aren't a Y member.

"Anyone can come in and utilize it," YMCA Executive Director Chris Kost said.

The teen center will be open from noon to 6 p.m. throughout the summer, and will host a variety of activity nights including grill and chills, tie-dye parties, kickball, movie nights and more.

"Just trying to build up that safe space," Sauter said.

Sauter said she will work to base the activities off what the youth want to do.

"Let them lead the way," she said.

When the school year starts again, the center will be open from 3-6 p.m. It will also serve as a meeting area for youth groups.

The new center is designed to be a safe, welcoming environment for youth at a time when mental health issues are on the rise. Sauter said the mental health statistics for high school students are staggering, with the 2015 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey showing more than 17 percent of students had contemplated suicide, more than 14 percent had made a plan and more than 8 percent had attempted suicide.

Sauter said the Y wanted to do something, even small, to help. The teen center is just that, giving youth a space where they can visit and connect with others, Sauter said, even if it means just sitting on the center's couch.

"Base level having a place where they can come and start building those relationships," Sauter said.

The center is a place where youth can go on any night to get out of the house and have fun without finding trouble, Sauter said.

"Youth that really want a place to be away from mom and dad, but for mom and dad to know they're safe," Kost said.

The Y also wants to make sure students can make it there, so the organization's newly-purchased bus will be transporting kids who need a ride.

"We don't want any barriers for youth to be able to be in a safe spot," Kost said.

With this center, Kost said the Y is further fulfilling its mission by serving the good of all, and filling the gap it was missing in service of 12-18 year olds.

The center goes along with the Y's Teen Thrive programming that can range from a basic program that allows youth to make connections with other young people to the leadership program that has youth leading and working on service projects. Other programs include an achievers program, that focuses on college and career readiness, especially on alternatives to four-year colleges, Sauter said.

The programs are designed to progress, so a child can start as a fifth-grader and become a member of Sauter's staff team. Through these programs, students can also earn a free Y membership.

Kost wants the center and the Y's programming to provide resources that youth may not otherwise have.

"Our youth are our leaders not only today but tomorrow," he said.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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