Designed to be cozy and welcoming, the Youth Center, located on the Edna Hill Middle School campus, is meant to feel like home. The center features couches, plush recliners, two TVs hooked up with video game consoles and a cabinet stocked with board games. There are also tables where kids can take a break from fun to focus on their homework.
Kids and adults flooded the youth center at its grand opening to catch a glimpse of a dream come true for Brentwood PAL Executive Director and Youth Liaison Officer Roger Wilson, who has wanted to bring a youth center to Brentwood for several years. “It’s always been my dream to open a youth center in Brentwood,” he said prior to the ribbon cutting. “Today is really special. Now kids have a place to go after school where they can be safe.”
Brentwood PAL was founded in 1998 as a way to establish positive relationships between local youth, police officers and community leaders. PAL programs provide alternatives to gangs, drugs and other criminal activities through an array of programs such as afterschool basketball and martial arts.
More than 60 guests toured the new center, which is open to students 10-14, as children raced around the room taking in all the fun. The boys raced to the armchairs to play football video games while the girls went for the board games and relaxed on the couch reading magazines.
“This is so fun,” said Edna Hill sixth-grader Benito Murillo as he sat down to play a game of table air hockey with his friends. “It’s really comfortable here, and it’s a place where I can hang out with my friends. I’ll definitely come back.”
Across the room, despite the commotion and excitement, sixth-graders Kalyany Rojas and Eric Sailors sat down to do some homework. “This place is pretty nice,” said Rojas as she worked through a language arts worksheet. “I’ve been waiting for it to open. I think I’ll come here every day after school so I can do my homework.”
Sailors also plans on being a regular. “I think this is going to be a fun place,” he said. “I usually just go home and play video games or do homework, but here I can hang out and have fun and get some studying done.”
To become a part of the Youth Center’s afterschool program, students must submit an application, which is available at the center. Students then meet with their guardian and Wilson to discuss eligibility.
Wilson credits the community’s coming together for making the youth center a reality. A majority of the décor, from the cabinets to the carpet, was donated to the PAL program. Students in the Liberty Union High School District hosted a board game drive last year to stock the center with plenty of fun recreation choices, including Monopoly, Yahtzee, Trouble and Uno.
PAL operates several afterschool programs at sites throughout the city. The PAL golf program is held at Shadow Lakes while the bowling league meets at Harvest Park Bowl. The Youth Center gives PAL a base to call home. Youth Center Coordinator Kim Wilson, wife of Roger, said the PAL board has a lot of plans in store for the program now that the center has opened. She’d like to invite members of the community to work with the youth by hosting an art class or a music lesson. Even if members of the community have time to donate only an hour a week to hang out with the kids and help them with their homework, they can make a significant impact on Brentwood youth.
The Youth Center, located a the northwest side of the Edna Hill Middle School gym, 140 Birch St., is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays from 1 to 6 p.m.
Brentwood PAL is always looking for volunteers and mentors. For more information about mentoring opportunities, call Roger Wilson at 925-809-7768. For more information about PAL, visit www.calpal.org.