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YMCA STAFF GIVES UP SPACE TO JUMP-START TEEN CENTER

YMCA officials believe so strongly that a community center for area teen-agers is needed that the administrative staff relinquished their offices to house the program and launch it immediately.

After seeing the results of St. Bonaventure University students' research last fall concluding the services are in heavy demand by area teens, the YMCA board of directors "took a leap of faith" that the community would support a facility, according to Barb Sweitzer, associate executive director of the Olean YMCA.

Four committees consisting of 22 teens and 24 adults were organized to develop rules and programs, design the center, begin fund raising and plan how to implement all the components. Finally, staff moved out of the way and into temporary quarters on the third floor of the YMCA at 130 S. Union St. after partitions were torn out of seven dormitory rooms.

The center's grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Inside is a play area containing pool, table tennis, foosball and bumper pool tables; a lounge with a large-screen television set purchased by teens who held fund-raisers; and a tutoring area with computers and Internet access, where college students will work with the teens.

"The kids will walk through the doors and they will love it. The important stuff to the teens is that they have space," said Mrs. Sweitzer, who added her only concern now is the lack of money to pay to keep two staff members on duty at the center at all times and for a full-time youth director to coordinate programming.

The planners are moving ahead with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 24, despite a lack of any firm commitment from funding sources for the $45,000 needed in annual operating expenses.

Only $2,600 and some used equipment have been donated locally for the $20,000 necessary in start-up costs, but Mrs. Sweitzer has recently begun hearing from potential contributors.

"A lot of us pray every night," she said.

All teens who can get to the center will be welcome, provided they have read a handbook designed by their peers, filled out an application signed by a parent or guardian and wear the center's picture identification card. There is no residency requirement and all activities are free on a drop-in basis.

A 20-member advisory committee, including 16 teens, plans and initiates all activities.

Seventh- and eighth-graders may use the center from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The center is open to high school students from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8:30 to midnight Friday and Saturday and 6:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Both age groups are admitted on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Midnight basketball is a special Friday night activity from October through March for high school boys who attend a self-improvement presentation preceding the games. Saturday Night Alive is a similar program involving strength training and other physical activities for high school girls who participate in a special program beforehand.

Other special activities will be scheduled, and participants are expected to help with quarterly community service projects.

All teens are invited to submit entries in the center's logo contest by Sept. 11 for a chance to win prizes.

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