By Patrick McArdle
The Boys & Girls Club of Rutland County has relocated its teen center and opened the gathering place in its new home at the Mount St. Joseph Academy last week.
The center has ping pong, foosball, video games, and televisions. But Freddie Cannon, teen-center coordinator, said there will also be programs to help students plan their college careers, and trips to let local high school students get a look at life outside Rutland County. “We’ll have a lot of fun. I’m a lot of fun. Let’s all have fun together,” Cannon said to an assembly of students last week.
Phil Hall, assistant principal of MSJ, said he knows Cannon from his own time working with the Boys & Girls Club in Brandon. Hall is also a board member of the Rutland club.
For MSJ, which has about 120 students, the teen center will provide a place for students to spend time when classes are over, Hall said.
Providing a place for students has been an issue, he said, because some students who don’t live in Rutland need a place to spend time between the end of classes and the beginning of an extracurricular activity.
“Over the last couple of years, we have got a lot of students come in from, say, Brandon, the Castleton area, and sort of all those Otter Valley towns that are far away,” Hall said. “(The students) don’t want to go home in between school and practice. We’ve had a lot of that. … Sometimes there’s nobody here and it gets a little tricky. This cleans all that up.”
The Boys & Girls Club had run a teen center at Hickory Street Apartments, but Cannon said after it became clear that operation was no longer financially feasible, there was a possibility of having to eliminate the programming until MSJ agreed to host the center.
While the center will be inside the academy, in a student lounge nicknamed, “the Wave Cave,” Cannon said it would be open to all teenagers in Rutland County.
However, he said there is no transportation provided by the Boys & Girls Club. A Rutland High School bus does stop near the MSJ campus.
Hall said the Wave Cave preceded him but was closed for a number of years until students approached him earlier this year with a plan to reopen the lounge.
Cannon encouraged students to sign up to be part of the center. He said he wanted to see 100 of the 120 students sign up to use the center.
“You all got nothing to do after school? You all got nothing to do at home?” he asked the students. “Chill with me. Come upstairs and chill with me on the second floor. We’ll be in the ‘Wave Cave.’ I need you all. Please.”
He told the students about a contest run by the national Boys & Girls Club that awards $10,000 a year for college. Cannon said the Vermont winner could win $2,500 a year.
Addressing the student body last week, Cannon said without MSJ’s student council working “diligently,” the teen center could not have been opened at the school. He thanked students, faculty, and staff for welcoming the Boys & Girls Club to their school.
The teen center will be open from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. There are no fees for the teens to participate in activities.
“I’d rather see the white of the kids’ eyes than some green dollars,” Cannon said. “That’s my thing. As long as they’re here having fun, we’ll be in business.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Rutland County has a site on Merchant’s Row, and sites in Fair Haven and at Barstow School in Chittenden.