NaperBridge teen center approved for downtown Naperville
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Think fast, downtown Naperville -- a teen center is on the way.
The unanimous approval NaperBridge received Tuesday night of its plans to open a teen center in the rear of a downtown building on Washington Street signaled to Executive Director Andy Jack the city council's strong backing of the initiative.
"It says a lot about support from the community," Jack said after the council granted permission for a teen gathering venue to occupy first-floor downtown space usually reserved for retail use.
A 700-square-foot area at 231 S. Washington St., accessible from the alley on the west side of the street north of Jackson Avenue between Fitness Experts and BK Jewelry, now is expected to be transformed into NaperBridge's headquarters by the end of October, Jack said.
Teen members of the nonprofit organization's board, like Naperville North students Austin Hansen and Anna Mandarino, get to guide furniture purchases and design decisions as they begin to make the space -- and the programming to be held there -- their own.
"It's really cool because it gives us the power to decide what we want to do as teens in the community," Austin said.
NaperBridge aims to turn the space into a welcoming environment where Naperville teens can "belong, create, perform, lead, play and be empowered" according to its mission statement.
Its first two events, separate dances for junior high and high school students, will serve to introduce the new group to teens in all public and private schools in Naperville, student board member Anna said. The middle school dance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Barn Recreation Center, 421 Martin Ave., while the high school event will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at the same venue.
Once a roughly $50,000 build out of the Washington Street space is complete, it will be open from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 11 p.m. weekends, with programming and activities planned from 7 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 3 to 11 p.m. weekends.
NaperBridge's offices will occupy about 700 square feet on the second floor, and a paid staff member and volunteers will be on site whenever the teen center is open. Teens will be required to check in every time they stop by, ensuring NaperBridge knows their name, phone number and emergency contact information.
Jack said NaperBridge will collaborate with other Naperville organizations already serving teens, which was shown by the organization's recognition Tuesday for participating in the nonprofit KidsMatter's monthlong effort to fight cyberbullying.
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