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Our Opinion: Remembering the teens

April 26, 2002

The Brawley Union High School District board has awarded a contract to build a new gymnasium and cafeteria and in a year's time the projects could be complete. That's good news for the district, but it's also good news for the community — particularly for teen-agers.

Because of a $2 million joint-use state grant, the gym will not only serve the high school but the city Parks and Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Brawley. This is positive in large part because the city and the Boys and Girls Club are placing more emphasis on reaching out to teens.

The opening of the gym could come about the same time the Boys and Girls Club, together with the city, opens a teen center in the Lions Center gym. We have said often that Brawley's recreation services are second to none in the Imperial Valley, and now it seems Brawley is leading the way in reaching out to teens.

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Typically, teens are the most underserved age group in communities. They tend to be too old for city recreation programs and, unless they become involved in high school activities, they have few positive outlets. Cities throughout the Valley and the county government need to do more to reach out to that age group and all agencies would be smart to look at Brawley as an example.

With the shared use of the gym in Brawley, Judy Chilcott, who heads the Boys and Girls Club, said it will become possible to conduct events at unusual times to attract teens, including programs such as midnight basketball. That sounds like a good idea. It would be fun and give youths not part of a high school athletic program a chance to take part in athletics and do so at a time when trouble brews.

Too often programs for teens tend to focus too much on the difficult issues teens face and provide things such as counseling. Programs also tend to focus on employment training for youth. But teen programs need to be fun and that is where a teen center can have an important role, and the sharing of resources between the high school and other agencies can mean the provision of important services.

We look forward to seeing how the teen center in Brawley and the shared resources of a new gym and cafeteria improve the quality of life for Brawley teens and others.

We also look forward to seeing more focus on teens throughout the Valley. Failing to do so cannot be an option. There is a lot of talk about reaching kids before their teen years, but that does not mean teens themselves are beyond positive influences.

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