By Max Gun
Holt Journal staff writer
Building Twentyone, a non-profit teen center in Holt, wants to serve more students in Holt Public Schools.
Brian Dora, whose eighth grade daughter Cori has been going to Building Twentyone since its inception, said the advantages of the after-school teen center have been remarkable.
“At Building Twentyone, my daughter gets to be a teenager without dealing with the dangerous aspects of drugs or alcohol,” he said. “She doesn’t have to worry about getting herself into trouble and neither do I. I know she has somewhere to go where she’s safe and having fun.”
Dora also said he works until 5 p.m., so that’s two and a half hours from the time his daughter gets out of school where she could be unproductive at home alone or roaming the streets looking for trouble.
The two-year-old teen center is available to any student in seventh through twelfth grade in the Lansing or Holt areas. The teen center operates on Wednesday through Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
Benjamin Schartow, executive director of Building Twentyone since it opened, addressed the Holt Public Schools board March 11.
“I wanted to personally inform the board of Holt schools, as well as any parents or students who may have been there, to tell them what we are about,” he said. “We don’t want to be thought of as our own island. We want to partner with the district and have them encourage their students to come to us after school.”
Schartow said Building Twentyone’s mission statement is, “A Non-profit teen center creating a positive youth culture by helping students find their passion and purpose to be actively engaged in their families, schools and communities.”
“The schools take care of the students until 2:30, so we want to take care of them after that,” Schartow said. “We want to help them explore and be creative to find their passion and purpose through recreational, educational, after-school activities.”
Shilynn Robedeau, 14-year-old ninth grade student at Holt High School, said she has been going to Building Twentyone since January.
“I go because it’s fun and it gives me something productive and safe to do after school,” she said. “Whether it’s playing cards, doing crafts, playing air hockey, or even getting help with homework, it never gets old.”
Robedeau also said that Building Twentyone allows her to relax and unwind from all the stress and drama associated with daily life.
Ellen Tilson, 14-year-old eighth grade student at Holt Junior High, said she has been going to Building Twentyone since September.
“It’s a fun place to be with your friends, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends,” she said. “Some teachers from the Holt schools come to Building Twentyone and help us with our homework, so we are always occupied.”
Schartow said he is pleased with Building Twentyone’s progress this year and hopes to open the teen center five days a week in the near future.
“We have had over 200 students join the teen center this year, and we serve 30 to 40 students on a daily basis,” he said. “Through our two years of existence, we have influenced over 800 students. Once we get enough volunteers, support and donations, we will eventually open on Mondays and Tuesdays as well.”
“According to the Michigan State Police, the highest rate of crime for youth is between 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, so our goal is to provide opportunities for kids after school hours that they don’t get anywhere else,” he said.
“We want this to be a youth driven, teen center. So we really stress that the teens are involved in the planning, and helping us organize which activities would be appealing to them.”
Building Twentyone is holding its second annual comedy fundraiser featuring nationally acclaimed comedian Joey I.L.O. The fundraiser is 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at Building Twentyone teen center, 2289 Cedar St., in Holt. Tickets start at $50 per person with all of the proceeds benefiting Building Twentyone teen center. Go to lansingcomedyforacause.com for more information.