There was plenty of fanfare after school Thursday when the long-awaited youth and teen center opened for play at the Sewickley Valley YMCA.
“I love it,” said Jared Meanor, 13, who played a round of billiards with friends. “I haven’t been anywhere else.”
Festivities at the grand opening included the middle school juggling club, the swim team, and the 5210 Club, a program designed to keep children active.
About 25 to 30 students typically attend daily, but adult volunteers found themselves managing an overflow of youth as the fun attracted 70 kids outside the YMCA. About 80 children were served a special meal of roast beef, mac and cheese, and fruit fed as part of the festivities, officials estimated.
Trish Hooper, chief executive officer, said the teen center was designed for and by the kids in the community who served as a key component in helping to decide what the multipurpose area would look like.
“The kids helped to pick out what’s here -- the colors, carpeting, the pool table -- they told us what they wanted in this space,” she said.
Seventh grader Parker Redcross, 13, who served on the teen advisory committee, said he particularly liked the large dry erase wall. Students wanted a mural devoted to their thoughts and messages, so the Y made it happen with a full white board wall.
Mounted flat-screen televisions allow students to compete in Wi Fit and Xbox 360 Kinect, games that engage students while keeping them active.
Computers are available and there's a lounge room, the Oasis, located at the back of the center. The room is for students who want to do homework in a quiet environment or play cards or board games.
Middle school students submitted names for the room and voted for their favorite. Nick Saladino came up with “Oasis” as the winning pick.
Construction started in November. The youth center was funded through a grant and gifts from contributors, including the Hansen Family Foundation and the Sewickley Valley Community Fund.
Students who attended the grand opening had their pictures taken and were asked to sign a frame that will be used to hang the photo in the center, capturing the first day.
“We really wanted them to have ownership of this space,” said Hank Ford, youth development director at the Y. “We’re definitely excited to have such an awesome facility here.”
Ford said the students have been traveling between locations, going to the White House, a youth center run by the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, two days a week, and to the community center on other days.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been planning this for quite some time now,” said Floyd Faulkner, community youth coordinator.
Faulkner, who works with children after school, said the center was a big asset to kids in the community and the first day produced a great turn out. Hired by Quaker Valley, Faulkner connects youth with after-school resources and often takes them to the YMCA.
“It was a total community effort," he said. "The Y stepped up big and we have a place for kids in the community and other communities for years to come.”
The youth center is open to any middle or high school student from the community. Students do not have to be members of the Y to visit. The center is open after school from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.