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Teens engage in fun activity at GRIT Center (copy)

Teens participate in an activity at the GRIT Center, which was opened by the YWCA. The center offers a safe place for teens.

Any parent has heard the complaints. “I’m bored.” “There’s nothing to do.” Or the mobile version from family vacations, “are we there yet?”

Maybe technology has altered this refrain. Now the youth are likely to say, “the Wi-Fi is slow.” Nevertheless, the message is the same throughout the years. Teenagers get bored and need something to do. Otherwise, boredom can have unforeseen consequences.

St. Joseph isn’t the only city that seeks to provide positive outlets and a safe space for young people, particularly in those hours right after school dismisses for the day. Many public entities have stepped up to the plate in this regard, and yet the need continues. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 22% of St. Joseph’s population is under the age of 18.

While some things haven’t changed regarding the teenage years, the pandemic and the small screen do seem to accentuate the value of meaningful, in-person interaction with both peers and mentors.

Take a look at just one example. A study from the Pew Research Center, released in June, found that teenage summer employment — a rite of passage for generations — hit its lowest level in 2020 since the recession of 2008-2009. Only 30% of U.S. teens held a paying summer job last year, down from more than 50% as recently as the summer of 2000.

This study would suggest an opening for other types of engagement, learning and mentoring in our community, whether it’s a job, a sport or just an opportunity to hang out.

A relatively new facility, affiliated with the YWCA, is stepping in to help fill a void for this segment of the population. The GRIT Center, which stands for “Growing Resiliency in Teens,” held an open house for a Downtown location that provides a place for teens to work on homework, get help with virtual learning, hang out with others their age, play games or learn life skills.

The center first opened at the main YWCA facility, located on North Eighth Street, and then moved across the street to the former New Life Church. This adjacent building, which the YWCA recently purchased, has the potential of enhancing existing services and helping launch new programming, like the GRIT Center that was able to take advantage of the extra space.

“It gives us the opportunity to work with another generation and really focus on our mission,” one YWCA official told our reporter

Now, the GRIT Center is looking for increased community involvement, including volunteers to help teach a skill. It’s an initiative that the community should support with enthusiasm.

Engaging with teenagers today will lead to more successful adults tomorrow.

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