Santa Barbara’s Franklin Neighborhood Center officially opened the doors to its new Teen Drop-In Center on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1136 E.Montecito St.
The center is designed to be a place for Eastside youths to play foosball, get on the Internet, watch movies and listen to music, but it will also add to established programs such as culinary arts through workshops that will provide information about careers, colleges, resume-writing and community service.
“I think this will be like the next Boys & Girls Club,” 13-year-old Janet Cabrera said. “People will actually want to come here.”
Mayor Helene Schneider brought out the big scissors to cut the red ribbon on the doorway before local teens and media poured into the former staff office.
The total cost of the project was about $27,600, most of which Schneider said came from a Community Development Block Grant.
The bulk of the project funding went toward knocking down office walls, laying new floors and rewiring, said Ricardo Venegas, Neighborhood & Outreach Services coordinator for the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department. He said the center also needed new cabinets and paint.
“I want to acknowledge staff who gave up some office space to make this happen,” Schneider said.
Venegas’ office was moved from where the teen center is now into the Neighborhood Center staff’s former break room. He shared the space with nonprofits that moved out because they couldn’t afford to stay during the recession.
Local teenagers still have a wish list of what they would like to see in the center, including lounge chairs, couches, a flat-screen television, eight additional computers or laptops, and video game consoles. Venegas said the center is looking for donations from the community to meet these needs.
“If you don’t have anything to do, you can come down here and get distracted,” said Wendy Flores, 13, who lives across the street from the Neighborhood Center.
Carmen Garcia, youth program director, said the center will serve as more than a place to hang out. Its upcoming job apprenticeship will place teenagers in paid positions in city departments. Information on scholarships and colleges also will be available at the center.
Garcia emphasized the importance of teenagers deciding the direction of the center’s future.
“I think little by little the teen center will develop its own dynamic,” she said.