The Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida is renovating a former Boys Club facility to create the first standalone teen center on the Eastside of Jacksonville, the Boys & Girls Club CITI Teen Center.
The teen center will be in the former Laurence F. Lee Boys Club of Jacksonville, which served children ages 6-1 when it operated April 1966 through May 2015.
Leaders tell Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson the $2.5 million renovation project will open a path for many teens to develop professionally and personally. They said the building could also provide many kids an alternative to paths of violence.
The two-floor building is currently under construction, but will be available in the next two months the leaders’ predict.
The Springfield building will be jam-packed with just about everything a teenager could want or need.
“The part I liked best is the dance studio and, like, the virtual reality,” said Olivia Rhodes-Clark, a current Boys & Girls Club student.
The teens and pre-teens we spoke to tell us they’re excited to use all the center has to offer.
“I like the barbershop, and I’ll be in there trying to learn how to cut hair so I can make money in the future,” said student Marquise Brooks.
Executive Director Paul Martinez gave Nelson an inside look into the new Boys & Girls Club Teen Center coming to the corner of 10th Street and Liberty Avenue in Springfield.
Inside the building will be a gym, movie theater, dance and recording studios, a robotics lab, barbershop, beauty salon, career center and print shop.
Kids will be able to learn a skills to help them find a job, and even learn how to conduct themselves during job interviews.
“It’s going to have all kinds of great things,” said Martinez.
The project is being funded through federal grants and matched donations. Martinez believes me they’re competing against what the streets have to offer.
“Gangs offer some of the same stuff that the Boys & Girls Club does,” said Martinez. “They offer them a sense of security, they offer them a job, with a proven product, and a distribution point, and a way to make money. That’s what we’re battling against.”
Martinez and others said they’re hopeful the center will give them a positive edge.
© 2020 Cox Media Group