Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

On Monday, March 8, Executive Director Adam Droscha welcomed everyone back to the Eaton Rapids Teen Space, a drop in teen center located at Union Street Center. The program has been closed for a year due to the COVID-19 virus.
“The pleasant surprise at re-opening was that there were no surprises,” said Droscha. “Everything went smoothly.
“The community has been very receptive, and we’ve had several interested parents make inquiries,” he added.
The Teen Space program serves students from sixth through twelfth grades. They are open from noon until 3 p.m. to correspond with the current school schedules. Teen Space will also be open from noon until 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, even though school will only be held virtually on Wednesdays.
There are some limitations at the center, of course, due to social distancing requirements. Everyone must wear a mask, other than when eating. Cleaning is a constant issue for the center, with or without COVID.
Attendance is limited to those who have been at school that day, other than on Wednesdays when there is open attendance. The number attending is limited, based on the square footage of the center, to 15 at a time in the main room and five in the game/craft room. Social distancing will be encouraged in all areas of the teen center. Parents are encouraged to call ahead to make sure there is room for their child before dropping them off.
“We are exercising serious precautions for safe visits, and the kids have been very receptive to all the rules,” Droscha said. “Things seem pretty normal.
“We expect more traffic once school is open more days,” Droscha said. Most teens attending are within walking distance from the teen center.
“I missed the place and I missed seeing my friends,” Oliver Wiles, a Teen Space visitor, said. “It’s great for food and doing schoolwork and for getting out of the house.” Wiles likes to play the keyboard and Wii games at Teen Space.
“I’m just here for the food,” quipped Stella Peterson, another teen visitor.
There have been reductions in the space being used by Teen Space, due to COVID-19. A shared space was lost, and the gym is off-limits as it’s being used by the daycare in the building. The woodshop will resume once the instructor is fully vaccinated.
New purchases have been made to add more activities for the teens. Musical instruments, including ukuleles, were purchased, along with digital cameras. An instructor for music has been located.
Droscha plans to re-start some programs that went on hold due to COVID-19, like career workshops.
Monetary support is always welcome, of course. “We are not in dangerous water, but there was a notable decrease in our donations due to COVID-19,” Droscha said. He continues to seek financial grants to support the program.
For those who would like to help, Teen Space always needs cleaning supplies. There is a box outside the entrance to Teen Space to drop them off. Although they are not serving meals to the teens, individually wrapped snack items, like chips and granola bars, are very welcome.
Theresa Smith, assistant director of Teen Space, said “It’s nice to be able to connect with the kids again.” Mandy Cortwright also works as an aide at Teen Space.
Eaton Rapids Teen Space is located at 501 Union Street and has its own entrance on the west side of the building. You can call 517-525-5633 for more information, or find them on Facebook at Eaton Rapids Teen Space.