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Hundreds gather for teen center ribbon-cutting
Former Congressman Norm Dicks eyes’ watered and he choked up a bit during last week’s ribbon-cutting for the new Bremerton Teen Center, located at the former site of Bremerton Junior High and East High School campus.
More than 200 people turned out last Friday for the dedication of the new center at 3102 Wheaton Way. The center will be home to the area’s first Boys & Girls Club for teens and a Lindquist Dental Clinic open to all area youngsters at low-cost to no-cost.
“We didn’t have the Boys & Girls Club (when I grew up) and when you think about the number of low-income families — 73 percent of the kids that come here are receiving free or reduced lunches or other forms of federal assistance,” said Dicks. “So, there’s a group in this community who will benefit from this mightily.”
Dicks noted that area youngsters will grow academically and have access to state-of-the-art technology at the club. He also spoke about the importance of the Lindquist dental clinic.
“I’ve been and seen them in operation and they are phenomenal,” he said. “To have the kids here in this community — not getting dental care is such a terrible thing to face — to be able to come here and get dental care is just so great.”
Dicks was also able to keep things light, poking a little fun at his successor, Congressman Derek Kilmer, who earlier had referred to Dicks as the “pride of West High.”
“There is one youth I’ve helped especially and that’s Derek Kilmer,” Dicks joked.
For his part, Kilmer spoke about all of the partnerships that were forged to make the new teen center a reality.
“This is a celebration of not just a new building, but of new opportunities for the young people of this community,” said Kilmer. “Also it’s an example of something we’re not seeing a lot of in our nation’s capital, and that is partnerships. I always believe the boat moves best when all oars are in the water rowing in the same direction.”
In addition to private donors, Kilmer noted that the federal, state and local governments, including the City of Bremerton and Bremerton School District, were all involved in making the teen center a reality.
“The reason all of us as taxpayers are involved in this is because it’s a really good investment,” Kilmer said. “There is a shared vision here around the opportunities we can provide for young people, what we can do for this community and how we can all make a difference.”
Kilmer also mentioned research dealing with when kids are most vulnerable.
“Where they find trouble or trouble finds them, is between 3 in the afternoon and 7 in the evening. So, it’s really important that young people, after school have a place to go … We spend a lot of time telling young people what to ‘say no’ to, whether it be ‘say no to drugs’ or ‘say no to gangs, today we celebrate something they can say yes to.”
One young person who has found her way with help from the Boys & Girls Club is 16-year-old Belfair resident Karlee Cossette, the 2013 Washington state Youth of the Year.
“I started going to the club in sixth-grade and ever since then my life has just been changed completely,” Cossette said. “I dealt with bullying, being raised by a single mom, school troubles and having my son at 16. Through it all, the Boys & Girls Club was one of my few amazing supporters.”
Cossette said that the new teen center will be more than just a building for the young people that gather there.
“This is going to be a symbol of hope for them when they come here,” she said. “The staff are going to be lifting them up and supporting them through everything. Every kid who comes in here is going to be dealing with something and a lot of them often feel like nobody’s there for them. But as soon as they walk through these doors, and once they see the awesome technology, the beautiful furniture and all of that, they’re going to be welcomed by people who really care.”
One of the ceremony’s other speakers was Jerry Reid, a local Realtor who just about every other dignitary acknowledged as being a driving force behind the success of the local Boys & Girls Club and teen center. Back in 2008, Reid and his wife, Nancy, pledged $1 million and kickstarted a years long effort to realize a dream. Reid highlighted the fact that kids involved in the Boys & Girls Club at local elementary schools will no longer have to walk the streets after finishing sixth grade.
“I’m proud of that and hope you are, too,” Reid said.
The center opens for business on Nov. 1. For more information about the center’s programs email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 360-917-1239.