STAUNTON, Va -- After years of sitting vacant, the Nelson Street Teen Center is receiving some much needed cleaning. As early as next week, the center could be full of teenagers in need of a place to go after school. Staunton Superintendent of Recreation Jenny Jones said it is something that the community needed.
“It's critical because crimes by and against teens soar from 3 to 6 p.m.,” said Jones. “Providing a program from 3 to 6 p.m. is essential. Not just to keep the teens safe but to keep the community safe at large.”
Due to loss of funding, the Nelson Street Center was forced to close down. Now, thanks to a grant the Boys and Girls Club received, the center is being used as a location to provide a structured program for sixth to eighth graders at the city's only middle school.
Tyrell McElroy, the chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club said the center would be a good alternative to what kids are doing now.
“What we've noticed is that these kids, after school, where are they going,” said McElroy. “Well, if you drive around town in Staunton, you see where they're going. They're hanging out on the street. It's not to say that they're up to no good, but just to give them a positive alternative.”
Principal Robert Craft from Shelburne Middle School sees the center as a way to achieve academic success and personal growth.
“They're going to have the opportunity to earn a college visit, to swim. They're going to have the opportunity to get their homework done. It's really going to help them hopefully both academically, and physically,” said Craft.
Because of the influences in middle school kids' lives, the hope is that having the teen center functioning again will provide them another place to go if things get start to get tough.
“We're not going to force this on them,” said McElroy. “We want to make sure they are aware of these things and that they can make a very conscious decision about what it is that they do with their lives.”
The Nelson Street Teen Center was expected to open on Monday, but that date has now been postponed. For the time being, the center will only be open for middle school students.
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