GRIT Center employee John Gregory, left, chats with Central High School student Josh Dosney on Friday during the center’s open house on North Eighth Street. The center opened in June across from the YWCA.

Friday marked the open house for St. Joseph YWCA’s GRIT Center, which focuses on “Growing Resiliency in Teens.”

The center provides a place for teens to work on homework, hang out with teens and play games, or even learn life skills, GRIT Center Manager Prent Eaton said.

“They can work on tutoring skills or play video games, pool, like, build any kind of skill,” he said. “That was overall the goal for us, was just a nice, safe, free place for teens to go so they’re not out on the streets.”

There has been a steady flow of teens since the center opened in June across from the YWCA. When the center opened in March, it operated out of the YWCA main building, but moving across the street a few months later increased the size available and helped get more teens in the door, Eaton said.

Despite the early success, YWCA Family Resources Director Rachel Kretzer said the next step is increasing community participation.

“We’re asking for community members to come in and volunteer,” she said. “We’re asking for organizations, business owners to come in and teach a skill, bring something to the teens that they aren’t getting at school or at home and just really bringing everyone together.”

With a focus on eliminating racism and empowering women, it’s important to establish a line communication with both genders, Kretzer said. It helps to start with the youth because it gets them thinking about those issues from an early stage in life.

“It gives us the opportunity to work with another generation and really focus on our mission,” she said. “In order to empower females, you need males to get on board, and to teach social and racial justice, the youth are a great place to start having those important conversations. So it’s really benefitting the YWCA and helping us extend our mission within our community.”

The center is open 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Alex Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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