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A fountain of opportunity for youth

Bryce McGuire, 11, shoots pool with Kitsap Family YMCA staff employee Jennifer Van Santford at the new YMCA Activity Center that opened Monday. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Bryce McGuire, 11, shoots pool with Kitsap Family YMCA staff employee Jennifer Van Santford at the new YMCA Activity Center that opened Monday.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Kids are now free to roam about the YMCA Activity Center.

The Kitsap Family YMCA celebrated a grand opening for the much-anticipated expanded area Monday afternoon.

The kids seem to like it.

“It’s fun having more space to move around,” said Michael Lewis, 14, a student at Bremerton Junior High School.

“It’s awesome,” said 11-year-old Mountain View Middle School student Bryce McGuire. “There’s a lot of stuff to do. I can play pool and air hockey, all kinds of stuff.”

The new space measures just shy of 3,000 square feet and came at a cost of $650,000. Funding came from a wealth of grants and community sponsors who were honored at the ceremony.

“This presents a real big opportunity for us to do some great things for youth,” said Jim Pond, the YMCA director of youth development. “We pretty much had an area for youth to hang out, play a couple games before. Now with this new center, we’re going to be able to offer a lot (including) six computer terminals for youth to work.

“Just the physical space with the addition of ... a kitchen designed to have cooking classes, affords us the opportunity to do a lot of new things.”

The YMCA will be expanding its hours with the new center and will be able to accommodate many more children and teenagers. The activity center will open at 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays to match the early release days of Bremerton and Central Kitsap schools respectively.

“So if parents have a way to get their youth here, they’ll have activities to be involved in,” Pond said.

The YMCA surveyed 108 members with the questionnaires giving “pretty good indicators of what parents would like to see,” Pond said.

That includes, sometimes, getting down to business.

“From 4 to 5 (p.m.), this changes from a place where you’re here to hang out to a place where you’re here to do homework,” Pond said. “We have people here, too, that are here to help with schoolwork.”

Community support throughout has been excellent, Pond said. Kitsap Youth Partnership, an organization with only $25,000 total to give in grants liked what the YMCA was doing enough to give $14,000, he said.

More space will be good especially for programs like Teen Late Night where an average of 135 teens attend every Friday night.

“You open a space this big, they can flow into it and it really enriches what they’re able to do,” Pond said. “There is table tennis, air hockey, foosball, bumper pool and a regulation billiards table for kids age 13 and older, plus a locker full of board games like checkers.”

The center also has potential for use as a meeting space, he said, and would be offered for events such as the city council District 3 meetings that have recently taken place at the Manette Senior Center.

YMCA Board President Cheryl Oakley expressed gratitude to all who helped get the project done.

“This is a facility we have longed for, much needed and greatly appreciated,” Oakley said.

Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman agreed the center helped fill an important community need.

“Most kids ... get into trouble between 4 and 5:30 in the afternoon,” Bozeman said. “It’s great for young people to have some kind of positive place to come after-school.”

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