2018 is the first real year in the life of the newly established Eaton Rapids Teen Center. It’s the first year the teens have a building to go to. It’s the first year there’s a center director, and it’s the first year of real programming.

Everything was planning for 2018 when teens would actually be able to dig in and discover something new about themselves and their community. Teen center director, Aron Dubois, came in and followed suit of the planners and the teens to find new and creative ways to engage teens with their skills and talents.

But, as with all things, money makes things happen. The donations to the teen center have been copious and gracious to be sure, but there are a number of factors to consider for the teen center, one of which is funding for programming. Dubois has fortunately been approached by several members of the community who are willing to offer time and resources to work with students on projects, hands on training, and trades they may not have tried. Still, there are big dreams that have gone into the teen center, and big dreams and ideas require investment.

In March Eaton Rapids city councilman, Chad Burke, approached Dubois about a possible grant opportunity from AT&T. The grant was big, and those kinds of dollars had the potential to push the teen center forward several paces in its offerings and opportunities for the teens. Dubois jumped at the opportunity, and his efforts landed the teen center a $15,000 grant. Wednesday, June 20 the Eaton Rapids Teen Center will receive their big money on a big check.

“It (the grant) will do a lot to broaden our scope and fuel our ambition to go deeper into our programming. It’s a huge door opener and that will make a difference,” said Dubois.

Dubois was elated with the news. He believes the grant money will go a long way in providing more opportunities for teens to get hands on experience in activities and skills they want to learn. While the teen center isn’t strictly a learning center, Dubois and the Teen Initiative team have always hoped the teen center would become a self-learning center, where teens come to engage those areas of interest that often go untouched in school.

“It’ll open up a lot of concrete plans for teens, that will not only be job focused, but productive in leading teens to explore,” said Dubois.

A common issue for teens of all walks of life is the inability of themselves and their mentors to identify their strengths and true interests. Dubois aims to use the teen center as a door to new career and skill pathways, and the programming as a tool for identifying those strengths. The opportunity to pay a business, or organization, or artist to come and show teens ideas for their post high school years is made real with sufficient funding.

The teen center is open weekdays during the month of June, and likely the rest of the summer, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The center is located at the Union Street Center on 501 Union Street in Eaton Rapids. Readers can like and follow the Eaton Rapids Teen Center Facebook page for further updates.