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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Matt Taliaferro, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Benton County, shows Wednesday July 3 2019 a basketball game in the game room of the club's new teen center in Rogers.

The Boys & Girls Club of Benton County recently opened a teen center across the street from its building at 408 S. Eighth St.

"It's not just a place for them to hang out. They actually get leadership development. They get academic development. Everybody that comes here gets a hot meal and leaves with a snack," said Matt Taliaferro, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Benton County.

Teen Center

The teen center in Rogers is free to attend.

Source: Staff report

The center opened about three months ago and has been in the works since 2016 when an anonymous donor gave the club the teen center building, he said. The space includes a game room, technology center with computers and a learning center where teens can study.

Melany Chavez, 17, has been attending the Boys & Girls Club since she was 5 and said having a designated space for teens is nice because they can do more activities with people their age, she said in early June before a grand opening.

"I think it's a really smart idea to have a hangout for teens that is a safe environment and has a lot of benefits, especially if you're in Keystone," she said.

Keystone Club is a community service group for teens 14-18. The club also offers Torch Club, a community service group for children ages 11-13.

Chavez has volunteered in soup kitchens, toured college campuses and taken camping trips through the Boys & Girls Club, she said. One of her friends is going to use the tech center to study for his driver's license test.

Ethan Campbell, 18, said during the grand opening attending the club has helped him with his school work because his family couldn't afford Internet at home, so he used computers at the club.

The club also has a teen center in Bentonville. The Fayetteville Boys & Girls Club's website doesn't list a teen center, but it lists programs geared to teens such as Future U, which is designed to prepare students for life after high school by teaching them how to manage personal finances and interview for jobs.

Representatives of the Bentonville and Fayetteville clubs didn't return requests for comment.

Any structured activity keeping teens busy and engaged while not in school can help keep them out of trouble, Rogers Police Chief Hayes Minor said.

One of the reasons police see an increase in mischief or suspicious activity calls during the summer is because teens are not in school and are bored, he said.

"What often starts as a prank or joke turns into a crime," Minor said.

The Jones Center in Springdale has several physical activity programs targeting teens, said Jake Lane, center spokesman. The bike park, swimming clubs and youth hockey are popular among that age group, he said.

Most of the summer programs at the Rogers Activity Center are geared to younger kids, but the center has a few camps accepting teens, said Ally Williams, recreation specialist.

The Rogers Activity Center will host a wrestling camp July 29 through Aug. 1 and a softball camp July 29-31. Each camp costs $55.

Alondra Duran, director of the Rogers teen center, said she wants the space to be a second home for teens who come there.

"I want them to feel safe. I want them to feel like they belong, and I want them to feel like it's OK to be themselves around anyone who is here," Duran said.

Duran said the staff has focused on getting to know the teens. Employees play board games, air hockey and table tennis with the teens. About 15-20 teens come on a daily basis.

Ashley Skaggs, director of operations, has worked for the Boys & Girls Club organization for 12 years and said she attends the kids' events, such as soccer games or graduations, on her own time. She also helps teens apply for jobs or for financial aid for college.

"I've just been able to get to know them on a personal level," Skaggs said. "They've been able to share with me some situations of maybe not having a mother figure or father figure or being the first one wanting to attend college, so they don't really have anyone who can help them through that process."

The teen center has space for up to 80 members in eighth through 12th grades. Having the center frees up space at its club in Rogers for kids as young as 6, Taliaferro said. The center is the fifth Boys & Girls Club facility in Benton County. The club also has spots in Pea Ridge, Bella Vista and Bentonville.

Community on 07/10/2019

Print Headline: Teen center opens in Rogers

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