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What would make a successful, long-lasting, teen gathering place?

Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2010, at 10:38 PM

This topic came from you! I asked the question about what you would like to discuss or see discussed and this is the first thing that came up (besides a certain South Pacific Island). What? (See the other post.)

There have been a number of efforts throughout the years by many well intentioned folks to provide a safe, fun place for our County teens to gather. I was actively involved back in the 70's but 'life' took me away from Shelbyville for many years and when I came back, family and a job seemed to consume all my time.

PLEASE speak up, or ask questions of our community. I hope we get a very lively, thought provoking conversation that results in positive actions.

In the past year I was aware of a group trying to find a place that they could set up a teen activity center. I am sure that when it started out there were numerous volunteers and much enthusiasm. When I saw the group last, it was down to 3 or 4 in the meeting and they were struggling.

Maybe it is still alive and if so, we would love to hear your progress, trials, triumphs, suggestions etc.. If it is not, I would guess it ran afoul of time, energy,lack of funds and eventually people.

While most would probably want to volunteer for such a worthy cause, volunteers get tired and they eventually fade away. I have been there numerous times and I have to admit that my enthusiasm has taken a hit over the years. Eventually you get down to a few hardcore folks and they gradually admit the effort has died. Not the need, but their particular dream.

BUT, there are successes out there and in today's internet world, they should be somewhat easy to find. Long-term success is what we would be looking for and then they should be studied, maybe even visited to learn their 'secrets of success'.

Part of our problem might be one of the things we like most about living here and that is the population is spread out. Teens can't easily get to the place without a car and if they have a car, they probably think they are too old to hang out at a teen center.

So maybe it does not need to be a "teen center". Maybe it just happens to provide a lot that teens are looking for and they naturally want to be there. Maybe instead of having heavy religious influences, the volunteers need to witness by example as they provide a safe, clean venue.

To avoid this being a long dissertation and to get some sleep tonight, I will stop here for others to start sharing their thoughts and ideas. Fear not, I have ideas on how it could work, but this is an open discussion so...... the floor is now open!


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The Boys and Girls Club in Murfreesboro has been a huge success there and Shelbyville is gearing up to start one here. Of course, success in one community does not guarantee success in another.

I hope you will read the latest about the efforts under way here in this Sunday's issue of the Times-Gazette.

-- Posted by kentflanagan on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 7:36 AM

When I was young my family lived in Murfreesboro for a while and visited it quite often. Since then it has grown tremendousely with lots of variety of things to do. Huge amount of places to eat out, atleast 2 movie theaters that I know of, the mall, YMCA & bowling alley just to mention a few. There once was a skating rink in Murfreesboro as well as here. But now...there is NOTHING here except for a movie theater. Shelbyville has grown very little and is being left behind. My family goes to Murfreesboro atleast once a week to shop and eat out...we only shop here for day to day needs. It is my true belief that there are people in this town that have kept new buisiness from coming to this town because if it did these mom & pop home owned buisinesses would loose money. And until THIS changes Shelbyville will NEVER have anything for the younger crowd to enjoy and many of the adults as well. This town is at a stand still and has been for many years. We needs more than just a movie theater for entertainment. I might not have gave any suggestions on what we need for our younger crowd but you have to start somewhere.

-- Posted by AmericanWoman on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 7:46 AM

I will look forward to the article Kent. For those who might want to learn more about the M'boro operation http://www.bgcrc.net/index.asp

Maybe some folks here have been to it? American Woman maybe you can comment some more on it?

Regarding the growth or lack there of in Shelbyville, this could be a whole new topic. I don't want to see this conversation drift off track so I will start another post to debate the pros and cons of the pros, cons of and maybe even what "progress" means to everyone.

If you dopn't mind American Woman I would like to quote your response in that blog?

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 8:13 AM

AmericanWoman,

I agree wholeheartedly. The builders of Northgate Mall originally wanted to build in Shelbyville, but leaders wanted to protect local merchants and shooed them away.

Colleredo Blvd. was originally planned to go from Union St. to Peacock but North Main shop owners cried that it would direct traffic away from their shops, so the plans were redesigned.

Also the city puts WAY too much emphasis on the horse show to the detriment of everything else.

-- Posted by quietmike on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 9:56 AM

MTSU Campus Rec has LOTS of programs for younger folks and teens during the summer. They offer adventure camps, sports camps, leadership programs, etc., on a week to week basis. They provide lunch. Many parents use it as an alternative to child care in the summer. Maybe something like these programs held at our Rec Center? Here are some links about the programs:

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~camprec/ROLL/

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~camprec/fitness/s...

http://frank.mtsu.edu/~camprec/outdoors/...

-- Posted by cherylrichardson on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 12:50 PM

I was wondering if the Boys/Girls club might be going through the rec center, otherwise it might be re-inventing the wheel and competition. Guess we wait for Sunday.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 1:24 PM

On of the things I noticed about this area that has not changed is the lack of organized activities for our kids. Where I moved from there were a host of options for after school and summer activities to keep kids busy. When I tired to find groups for my kids to get into I ended up needing to drive to Columbia or Murfreesburo and even then the picking were slim and expensive(now I look for the G-kids). There were after school programs such as baton, gymnastics, basketball, babysitter training classes,just to name a few. They had art classes, sewing and other enrichment groups that were offered. These have disappeared (I'm not sure how popular such things were here). I don't know the legalities of holding these sort of programs but it would be nice to revive them. I know we have the Rec Center, but the dues make it unacceptable to many who need it the most. Perhaps there is a location that would donate the time and space to help revive these things. Perhaps we could encourage older teens to help put on activities for younger kids.

An idea for the young teen group, when i was in middle school they had a summer program that met Thursday and Saturday evenings, it was open gym during the week, and Saturday night dances (DJ). It was kept very simple and the admission was very cheap (like a dollar or two depending on the activities just enough to off set the cost) sometimes they allowed local teen bands play for the dances. Again I have no idea of what the legalities for such activities would be today.

There was one father that would organize a dance every couple weeks at the local community center, where he had a band lined up and snacks available, he was not out for profit just a safe place for his teens to gather other than out on the street. I know this type of thing is a lot more challenging these day than back then, but we knew it would be fun and if we broke the rules we would not be allowed back, it was a "privilege" to be there in our eyes and so we did not want any trouble to spoil it, we basically policed ourselves so he would not stop having them. It was one place the "cool" and even the not so "cool" kids could go and enjoy themselves.

-- Posted by wonderwhy on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 3:03 PM

That is key to keeping control, make it so much fun that no one wants to endanger losing their rights to be there.

There will be some testing of the boundaries and you will have some older "kids" who want to hang around the younger ones because it make them feel cool, but when handled with a fair but firm hand it usually calms down.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 4:14 PM

Shelbyville offers nothing for children or teenagers.. No jobs, no amusement,nothing of interest to these children. One day the people of Shelbyville will wake up and all that will be left here is illegals and retirees.

Shelbyville does not offer anything to these up coming adults to persuade them to stay.. they surely will not want their children growing up being as bored and neglected by the city as they were just to receive a dead end jobs.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 6:02 PM

the teen thing needs to not be funded or run by a church roup.. if so then only that churchs' teens will o since the other churchs in shelbyville cannot seem to get along and work together. a YMCA or something like that would be excellant.

We've had several church youth centers and they always flop after a couple of months..

-- Posted by 4fabfelines on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 6:35 PM

I did not realize the Churches were divisive. I know they have different beliefs in how to worship God but you would think they could get together for something like this.

Anyone want to speak up about this opinion?

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 9:06 PM

While you are thinking about that or working on a response let me throw in another opinion. The youth effort must make an income. Whether it is from donations, fees or some other method, it needs money to operate.

To some this is going to sound atrocious. How could I consider charging the youth to enjoy the benefits of such an operation? Well, the hard cold facts are that the electricity needs to be on, the building needs to be maintained, and there needs to be a building in the first place.

You will also need to pay salaries. Volunteers eventually get tired and stop volunteering. I can give you MANY examples of this, including myself. Most of the things that hold a volunteer group together are done by a small group of hardcore folks who eventually get pooped.

Besides, do you want your children to be supervised by someone who might or might not show up, or who knows basic CPR but little else when it comes to sports injuries or medical emergencies?

People love to volunteer but there is only so much they can do before they have to feed their families. Many of the basic jobs can be filled by the older teens, so here is a side benefit of being able to pay for work performed.

Federal and State grants are often based on matching funds, which means you have to have some to match.

Look closely at the Boys and Girls Club website. They charge fees, ask for donations and probably have numerous corporate sponsors. They offer their facilities to the public, but again, for a fee. They are committed to not turning away a child because they can not pay, but I would bet they look close to make sure the need is real.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Jun 16, 2010, at 9:50 PM

I have seen many many efforts to provide a place for teens here in Shelbyville. The teens would not stay inside but would end up congregating in the parking lot - and daylight would find unbelieveable litter!

-- Posted by Clari on Thu, Jun 17, 2010, at 10:52 PM

There are sports groups that run year round. Baseball, basketball and football. The kids that are active in them only have a month or 2 to rest.

The other groups like YMCA and others cost too much.

When I was a kid, in the '80's, we rode our bikes back and forth to the pool @ Park Complex. We went to practice ball at Never Rest Park and the park behind the School Board Building. (I lived on the South Side of town so it was not very close)

A lot of people hate the Skating ramps because of the kids. It is for them. It is controlled chaos. They will work it out. The batting cages are the same way. It is all for the good.

Teens are going to find their own places, it is that simple. They hated it when we used to cruise on Madison St, and in front of the Old Auto Zone.

Trying to cage the uncaged will lead to more madness than you know.

-- Posted by UVilleGators on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 3:08 AM

Clari, I have had personal experience with the parking lot hangout and what goes on in them. When I took over management of a restaurant that had become the hangout du jour, I made a policy that they could stay all day and night with just a cup of coffee, but it had to be inside.

The good element stayed, the trouble makers left but somehow came back and behaved while there. They tested the boundaries but we came to an workable truce. We encouraged police presence but I can remember calling the police only one time when it appeared there was a robbery attempt.

I say appeared because the two fellows say they were just joking around and maybe they were, but Halloween masks and what looked like a gun was enough to take it seriously. Their one call from the police station was to me! Great, they wanted me to help. As I recall it worked out but at least one of them went on to more serious issues.

UVilleGators, you make good points. Especially controlled chaos. If you want to get some of the real "restless" teenagers, maintaining controlled chaos may be the best you can achieve without running them off.

Just as hard as it is for the teens to settle down, it is hard for those of us with a few more years under our belt to allow what appears to be anarchy, but I believe a balance is necessary if you want to succeed. That is especially hard to understand for most Church groups.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 8:15 AM

Maybe I should use the word allow in place of understand when it comes to certain groups. I believe they understand the challenge but because of the nature of their group, they can not allow such behavior.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Jun 18, 2010, at 10:48 AM

my son loves to skateboard but becasue he is smaller the older teens pick on him and are very rude to him., I hate having to be a mediator in between that crap so we just stay home.

-- Posted by 4fabfelines on Sat, Jun 19, 2010, at 9:04 PM

I am not acquainted with the skateboard park, but I can see where wide age differences would not mix real well. Is there an age requirement?

Is it totally unsupervised (except for parents)?

Any idea on how much it cost to build? My thought is to build two and separate into two age groups.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jun 20, 2010, at 7:09 AM

My girls get picked on for their values and morals by kids who have none, that being said a teen place would be great but as I have always seen in the past trouble and drugs always seem to find their way in. Lesa is right , the churches as a whole can't get along because some denominations think their way of thinking is the only way and won't include those who don't see the same way. I have my beliefs and codes that I follow and will adhere to them, but some churches are just out on the edge.

-- Posted by michaelbell on Sun, Jul 4, 2010, at 7:07 AM

I regret that I have seen to many church based groups fail and that is a shame because there needs to be a "moral compass". That is not to say that groups that succeed do not have this "compass". Rather it is a statement to the church based folks to stay involved, even if it did not work out as planned.

It is no doubt tough to have a strict moral code in our society today because our society has lost much of its values. I was a restrained "child of the sixties" always feeling as if I was on the outside looking in. There were some things I admired, but much more with which I wish my generation had not been a part.

-- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Jul 4, 2010, at 11:25 AM

Perhaps,we need to ask successful places how they've managed to avoid the many potential pitfalls.

Eons ago,I asked some folks in Pulaski how they managed to support a number of activities for their community.

Yes,it was a "college town" but it seemed to have a social identity beyond what Martin provided.

At that time,Giles County had fewer resources in terms of money and population than we had.

It did have a positive,"can-do" spirit.

If there was "nothing to do" locally,car pools or buses would take any and all comers to Huntsville,Nashville,Chattanooga or wherever an event might be.

A nominal "season ticket" to TPAC,the Nashville Symphony,Circle Theatre,the playhouse in Crossville,etc. made these offerings available to all residents-even the aged and indigent.

Sports events,picnics by a lake,trips to roller and ice skating rinks,car shows,horse shows and the like were available for spontaneous trips.

The season tickets,at-the-door admissions,standby tickets and "love offerings" made it so even those who hitched a ride at the last minute (or those who had no funds)still got to attend and eat if meals were part of the outing.

This was possible because the people who wanted the entertainment were willing to find a way to make it happen.

They were ready to share the fun with people unlike themselves,try something new on occasion,behave with respect for themselves and others and give of what they had.

There was little moaning over what was lacking.

There was plenty of talk-and action-about what was there to be applied toward fulfilling desired goals.

What did we have and how could we acquire what was missing?

I think that mindset enabled them to accomplish more than we did with far less material wealth to work with.

Our folks have as much heart and horse sense as anybody.

I think if we deny that our city motto is "That can't go in Shelbyville",we can have much of what we want even in tough economic times.

The elders we look up to made it through times of war and poverty.

We can apply similar wisdom and fortitude in our lives.

Let's just work on the how instead of looking for the negative and all conceivable obstacles.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, Jul 8, 2010, at 7:12 PM

Hey, welcome back QC, at least to my blog. Missed you!

That "can do" attitude sure seems to be needed right now. I just put a post up about the business community and the Chamber. Your thoughts apply to that as well.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Jul 8, 2010, at 8:45 PM


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Steve Mills and his wife have one daughter and live on a farm outside of Bell Buckle. They previously owned two coffee/ice cream shops, currently operate an internet sales company and teach classes, but his primary job involves the paper industry worldwide. Hobbies and interests lie in gardening, photography, recorded music and of course, their pets.