Youth Centers: Safe and Substance-Free Fun for Teens

Youth Centers: Safe and Substance-Free Fun for Teens

By Rachel Williams

The preteen and teen years are a time when young adults want to push boundaries and get time away from parents to socialize with their friends. However they are not yet responsible enough to be on their own and there are few low-cost or free activities one can attend for extended periods of time without parental supervision. A teenager simply can’t go to the movies every night. This is where a teen center comes in.

Teen centers are designed to be safe and substance-free places for youth to socialize. Most youth centers are equipped with free information for young adults on issues they are facing and staff members are trained to work with young adults. It is important to realize the critical role played by youth center employees. It has been proven that youth who have three or more nonparent adult role models in their lives are less likely to be involved in risky situations. In addition to modeling good behaviors, youth center employees are people that youths feel comfortable talking to about their problems — and can intervene if a teenager is in trouble.

In addition to being a place to hang out, youth centers offer some great programs and lots of fun activities for youth take part in. The Junction teen life skills center in White River Junction, Vt., and Spectrum teen center in Woodstock, Vt., have opportunities for young adults to go indoor climbing, swimming and evening snowboarding. The 802 Lounge in Windsor, Vt., does community art projects, provides free business and art workshops, helps young adults find jobs and assists in the college application process.

Youth centers are also great places for teens who don’t feel like they fit in or are hanging out with a crowd their parents may not be fans of. Because teen centers are not owned by schools, they are great places for like-minded teens from all over the Upper Valley to meet. Teens often initially go to youth centers alone and end up finding a group to hang out with by taking part in a shared activity, such as video game playing. Studies prove attending youth centers increase a teen’s self-confidence and social skills, so attending a youth center may be that extra push your teen needs to find herself.

If you are interested in finding a teen center, your school counselor can assist you in locating the nearest one. Two centrally located teen centers in the Upper Valley are the Junction and the 802 Lounge. The Junction is located in the new Listen Center complex in White River Junction and is open Tuesday through Friday, 2 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. The Junction provides community dinners, has a pool table, a Nintendo Wii and a projector for movies. The 802 Lounge is located at 5 River Street in Windsor and is open Friday, 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday, 2 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m. The 802 Lounge has laptops and free Wi-Fi, a PlayStation 3, cable, plenty of games, and hosts many social events such as makeover nights and dances.

Rachel Williams is the director of the Youth Managed Café (the organization that runs the 802 Lounge) and Youth Outreach Coordinator for MAPP. Rachel lives in Hartland, Vt. For more info on the Youth Managed Café, please contact her via e-mail ( or drop by the Lounge at 5 River Street in Windsor, Vt.

Centers for All Abilities

The Upper Valley is fortunate to have two places for kids with special needs:

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