Group works to engage teens with after school programming in Eaton Rapids

Teens in Eaton Rapids now have a new place to hangout after school.

After months of planning, the Eaton Rapids Teen Center opened it’s doors for the first time earlier this week.

The idea behind the center started back in Nov. 2016 with a small group of people who just wanted to give kids in Eaton Rapids a safe and encouraging place to get together with their peers.

Now.. they can call that idea a reality.

“This is a place where they can just relax and have fun,” says 7th grader, Tyler Wolf.

According to the Eaton Rapids Medical Center, a 2015-2016 survey done by the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth showed an increase in 7th and 9th grade students with symptoms of depression and thoughts of suicide.

It’s that research, that prompted organizers to start a teen center, giving kids a safe, supervised place to go after school.

As time passed, they say more and more parents and teens wanted to get involved.

“We started out with 25 people or so invited to the first meeting, and that group has grown to about 90 at this point,” says Chair of the Eaton Rapids Community Alliance, David Ballard.

Ballard says the idea is to provide an adult led, youth driven program where teens can choose to learn a new skill, get help with homework, or find guidance on important issues.

“It’s really awesome that adults are willing to and able to create this center and this safe creative space after school for kids to come,” says 8th grader, Claire Rose.

Claire is home schooled and says the center is her opportunity to interact with peers.

And for others like Tyler Wolf and Dontae Parker they says the center offers them a chance to focus on their studies.

“I’d love to see the teens engage the community and something I’ve heard from them is wanting to,” says Eaton Rapids Teen Center Executive Director, Aron Dubois.

Dubois says the program benefits more than just the youth, but the adults who teach them as well.

“Whether that’s community service, or helping their parks or hosting events. So that the community can get to know it’s teens and the teens can get to know their community,” says Dubois.

Taking a vision and turning it into a reality.. one that could change the lives of these teens forever.

“Everybody wants to come back as soon as they come here,” says Wolf.

The teen center is now open to students in grades 6-12.

For more information and ways to donate, head to the Eaton Rapids Community Alliance website.

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