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The A.Z. provides after-school opportunities for teens

Supervised social atmosphere also features gym, tutoring

October 3, 2012

» click to enlarge «
From left, Clawson seventh-graders Michael Kostrzewa, 13, Michael Smithson, 13, and junior Doris Owens, 16, enjoy one of the new flat-screen televisions Sept. 27 at The A.Z. The after-school zone for teens at Hunter Community Center was newly remodeled over the summer.
Beverly Owens, The A.Z. program coordinator, shows off the Hunter Community Center after-school hangout site.

CLAWSON — If you haven’t visited the Teen Center since the summer, you may notice quite a few changes upon your next visit.

With a new layout, new furniture, new equipment and a new name — The A.Z., which stands for “after-school zone” — teens from Clawson middle and high schools can have a whole new experience from 3-6 p.m. weekdays at the Hunter Community Center, 509 Fisher Ct.

“Kids always need to have somewhere to go that’s fun, other than home,” program coordinator Beverly Owens said. “Home is fun, but this way they come straight here, do their homework, socialize and have fun. At the same time, they’re supervised.”

The changes took place after the center’s summer programs ended and were unveiled Sept. 18.

“It just seemed like it was time,” Owens said. “Also, (it was to) try to attract additional students. Having other people come on board, and it was a team effort — it was just perfect timing.”

With NBS of Troy donating their design help and a portion of the new gear, the first phase of the three-phase project included two new sofas, two new benches, a new table with chairs, new storage cabinets, several new chairs and rugs, and two new flat-screen televisions for movie and video game use.

“They helped by coming in and doing a blueprint of how things were, and they took it back to their office and brainstormed how they could make the room more open,” Owens said of NBS.

There is also a gym and tutors available, as well as occasional special events throughout the year, such as the Jan. 17, 2013 Making Good Choices event.

NBS Head Designer Jill Blade did not respond to messages seeking comment last week, but Clawson Recreation and Senior Services Director Kathy Leenhouts said Blade’s group, which was primarily interns, did a great job moving The A.Z. forward.

“She was a huge help to us. The generosity and assistance of NBS was beyond our wildest dreams,” Leenhouts said via email. “I think our efforts to make the A.Z. a more appealing space shows the students that they are important. The room has a flow to it now and more useful space for activities. Attendance is up a bit from last year and I hope as the year progresses and we begin to offer activities of interest, more and more students will choose to take advantage of the program.”

The center has been available for Clawson teens for more than 15 years, but the annual fee per year is now $15.

“Clawson has School of Choice students,” Leenhouts said via email. “Some are dropped off by parents on the way to work, and they are not picked up until parents are on the way home from their jobs. There are also students who live in Clawson who don’t want to go home to an empty house, or parents don’t want them going home to an empty house. The A.Z. provides a safe place for them to relax after school, work on homework, socialize (and) play basketball and other games in the gym or on the grounds.

“We dropped the cost for the program this year to $15 for the entire school year to make it affordable to most everyone.”

Leenhouts said those struggling with the $15 yearly fee can contact Clawson Youth Assistance to see if they qualify for assistance with the registration fee.

Phases two and three of the upgrade, pending funds, plan for a new kitchen and new carpeting throughout the center.

“The last time something ‘new’ was provided to the former Teen Center program ... I couldn’t say. I would guess it was probably video games of some sort,” Leenhouts said via email. “To my knowledge, there have been no major expenditures for the program, partly because there were not funds to do so. There have been donations over the years of used things, such as furniture, desks, games, etc. In the past, the majority of the budget provided by the city and schools went towards staff and everyday-type supplies. We have made a greater commitment to fundraising, partnering with the community, as we did with NBS, and a more prioritized use of the funds available.”

For more information on The A.Z. program for teens, stop by or call (248) 589-2322.

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