November 28, 2003|By Lauren Heist Staff Writer
NORTH LAUDERDALE — Every school day it’s the same. Rebecca Cintron, 17, leaves North Lauderdale Academy Charter High School and walks a few hundred feet to the Levine/Slaughter Boys & Girls Club next door.
For four years, she’s come to the Boys & Girls Club at 7201 Kimberly Blvd. to challenge other students to a game of pool, play video games and hang out with friends.
“You spend more hours here, more hours than you spend at other places,” she said.
But Cintron and teens like her are outnumbered at the Boys & Girls Club. Of the 200 to 250 kids that use the facility, only about 40 percent of them are over 14.
Now, Cintron and other teens have a place to call their own, now that an entire wing of the building has been renovated and redesigned as a teen center.
Cintron thinks having an area away from the younger kids is a good idea. “Kids will be kids and teens will be teens,” she said.
Although the Boys & Girls Club at 3025 W. Broward Boulevard is open only to teens on weekday afternoons, the North Lauderdale center is the first to have an area catering to high school students.
Earlier this fall, about 100 people turned out for the grand opening of the Leo Goodwin Foundation Teen Center, which was paid for by a $500,000 donation from the Leo Goodwin Foundation and gifts from other individuals.
“As they get a little older, they really need their own space or you’re going to lose their attention,” said Alan Goldberg, a trustee of the Goodwin Foundation and a member of the Boys & Girls Club’s Board of Directors.
The teen center has a large game room where students can play pool, ping-pong, foosball and air hockey; a computer room where they can catch up on homework; and a big screen TV for relaxing after school.
It also has a small kitchen and space for a recording studio, which organizers hope will help some teens gain skills they can use in future jobs.
“This is a new direction that the Boys & Girls Club is going,” Goldberg said, adding that the Boys & Girls Club hopes to build more teen centers that will focus on different careers that don’t require a college education.
“While we encourage them to go on to college … not every child is college material,” Goldberg said. “We want them to understand there are career opportunities out there.”
Christine Richardson, the teen center’s new director, thinks the concept of a teen center will catch on. “It’s important to keep kids doing something positive,” said Richardson, who served as the athletic director for seven years before tackling the teen center.
The Boys & Girls Club of Broward County operates 11 facilities and serves about 12,000 students, many of whom come from at-risk neighborhoods.
Some, like 18-year-old Jems Augustin, of North Lauderdale, come back year after year. “It’s my second home,” he said.