By Camila Thomas
This summer, teens in the Kingsbridge Heights sector of the Bronx will have a chance to do more than just watch television or sleep all day. The Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, KHCC for short, officially started the Teen Center Summer Session on July 8th.
Staff member Dennis Wallin and intern Denise Maldonado supervise the program. The program meets every monday through thursday from 5 to 8 pm. About 15 teens from varying ages attended the first session.
Teen Center Summer Session, which ends on August 16th, invites teenagers in Kingsbridge Heights to participate and get involved in their community. Some of the activities include gym sports, peer mediation classes to teach teens how to solve problems, youth council, and computer classes.
The first meeting began with a group self introduction and a simple question: What’s your favorite hobby? Slowly, the teens began to open up and talk about themselves.
“I thought it would be boring, but it was kinda fun.” said Lia Christopher, one of the teens who attended the first meeting. Christopher, who lives down the street from the KHCC, said she heard about the Summer Session online. She said coming was to the program was better than staying at home and watch TV.
When Wallin asked the group how many of them had been to the Teen Center or attended any other program at the Center, most of the teens raised their hands. The Teen Center closes on August 30th,where activities like gardening and dancing take place in the afternoon.
The supervisors passed around calendars of the schedule of the Community Center to encourage attendance to the different programs offered at the Center.
All students had to sign a statement with the rules and regulations of the Summer Session to ensure a safe environment, said Wallin. A few of these rules include no drugs on the premises and no bullying.
Sadie Mahoney, who has been working at the KHCC for 12 years, has been supervising the Teen Center’s Summer Session since its beginning in the summer of 2001.She says the Teen Center lost many teens to local gangs, so the Center decided to extend its services to teens to the summer.
“Summer session tends to be smaller,” she said. Mahoney said most of the teens involved in the Summer Session have been attending programs in KHCC since they were younger or heard about the Session from school or flyers. She said a lot of these teens have siblings in the Early Childhood building, located next to the KHCC’s main building in Kingsbridge Terrace.
According to their website, http://www.khcc-nyc.org, the KHCC was founded in 1974. The building occupied by the KHCC was built from 1901 to 1902,and was used as the 50th Precint Police Station until 1972,when they decided to move to another location.
Three women, Mary McLoughlin, Patricia Burns, and Janet Athanasidy, came up with the idea of a center for Kingsbridge Heights and needed a permanent building for activities. After petitions to the City Hall to give the building for the good of the community, the building was finally secured on December 27th, 1974. Later on, a professional staff was hired.
The KHCC now offers activities throughout the year for all ages in Kingsbridge Heights. Its Early Development building has a daycare for children from 3 to 5 years old. The KHCC offers counseling and prevention talks about child abuse, English classes for adults, college workshops and help with the college application process for High School seniors.
“With our budget, we’re doing what we can” Mahoney said.