Tall and lean, a 17-year-old from Chestnut Hill who had just completed his first marathon was reluctant to talk about himself.
“He’s a very fast, talented runner,” said Chanda Gunn, who was sitting next to him in the recreation room of the newly christened Newton Teen Center on a recent weeknight.
With a little more coaxing from Gunn, who runs the center, the teenager started to open up a little, saying he has big plans to someday win the Boston Marathon.
The West Suburban YMCA is the new home of the Newton Teen Center, which celebrated its grand opening May 30. It serves “a very vulnerable population,” said Gunn, the energetic director of teen services at the Y.
“There definitely is a population in Newton who is in need or at risk of the same things you would find with an at-risk kid in Boston, but there is actually less special programming with that target audience in mind because of the general assumption that it’s in Newton so we don’t need anything,” said Gunn.
‘It’s a complicated social and academic environment’ in Newton. ‘If you fall short of that, it can be hard to make connections.’
A wealthy suburb with the kind of schools that parents relocate for, Newton isn’t the kind of place most people associate with at-risk teenagers. But sometimes that very perception helps fuel the need for a place like the teen center, say supporters.
“It’s a complicated social and academic environment,” said Gunn. “If you fall short of that, it can be hard to make connections.”
Newton has public housing, families that are struggling, and teens who have a hard time finding their niche, she said, and the center is meant to help any teen who is looking for a sense of community within the competitive environment that is Newton.
“We target at-risk teens in Newton, but anybody can come,” said Gunn.
The new central location, which has a music room and all the traditional amenities of a Y, replaces two teen centers that closed earlier this year under financial pressures.
“As we looked to create a sustainable model, particularly under the current fiscal constraints we’re all facing, especially nonprofits, we decided it made more sense to create one very strong teen center in the center of town,” said Susan Linn, codirector of the Newton Partnership, which helps fund and operate the new center with the help of federal grants.
The new facility at the Y, at 276 Church St. in Newton Centre, replaces the Bibbo Teen Center on the north side of town, and the south side’s Chestnut Street Teen Center, which opened in 2009.
The center is free and teens can come in any time between 6 and 10 p.m., Monday through Friday (with weekend hours over the summer to be determined). For complete information on hours, go to www.newtonteens.org.
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