Did you know that there’s a place in Richmond Hill where teens can hang out, meet new friends, do homework, and play video games, pool, foosball, ping pong or piano, all for free and under adult supervision?
That place is the Richmond Hill Teen Center, which provides “a safe, positive place for teens to hang out,” according to director Heather Walker.
With an interior recently painted in modern, cool grays with white trim and red curtains, punctuated with skateboards-turned-bookshelves and brightly-colored wall art, the center is an after-school safe haven replete with teen-oriented amenities and décor.
“I love the teen center,” said Max Weinstein, 13, while engaged in a video game with friend Truman Wayne, 13. “My favorite thing about being here is just hanging out with everyone and meeting new people,” he added. “In fact, I think that’s how I met Truman.”
Lauren Perry, 15, explained why she likes going to the center.
“There’s A/C, it’s a really nice place to come to after school and there are fun things to do to keep you busy,” she said.
The teen center is part of Bryan County Family Connection.
“I just think that the county doing something like this, having a free facility for teenagers to hang out, is so amazing,” said Walker.
While the county pays for the building and utilities, most of what’s inside has been donated by local businesses and families. The colorful splatter paintings on the wall were created by Girl Scouts, who also volunteered their time to help paint. Daily snacks provided for the teens are donated by stores like Publix.
Richmond Hill students ages 11-18 are welcome at the center, which is open after school until 7 p.m. It is located at 185 Ballpark Road, near the recreational fields off Timber Trail. Teens can walk or take the bus to get there.
Walker, who has extensive experience as a church youth group leader, said she is pleased with the respect and kindness the teens demonstrate.
“They’re really good kids … they’ll offer to take out the trash or help out. I’ve never asked any of them to call me ‘Miss Heather,’ and every single one of them does and always has.”
The center welcomes volunteers and donations of all types.
“Whatever your niche is, whether that’s tutoring, playing piano, or maybe even setting up a pool tournament, we’ll find something for you to do.” said Walker.
She added that the center could use more computers. They currently have two for about 20 students.
“I love being director here. I love teenagers. Acoustically, I would like it if, when I went home, my ears weren’t ringing, but that’s just how teenagers are,” Walker said with a laugh. “And what’s awesome is, the louder it is, the more of them are in here and the more fun everybody has.”