(This is the first of a two-part series on the City of Hyattsville Teen Center. The second part will focus on the Teen Center’s tutoring and mentoring program.)
By HEATHER WRIGHT — The Teen Center @ Magruder, currently located at Magruder Recreation Center, is poised to expand into a second site, although the space won’t be ready for use this coming school year. The city has entered into a purchase agreement for a property at 5812 40th Avenue for a second Teen Center location. According to Community Services Director Jake Rollow, the city should close on the 40th Avenue property within about a month.
The 40th Avenue property was attractive to the city, said Rollow, because it has green space and also is adjacent to city-owned green space. Additionally, the city could buy (versus rent) the property, which would allow the city to both gain an asset and seek more grant funding. The building, although old and in need of renovations, is structurally sound and in good shape.
According to Rollow, some of the necessary renovations involve bringing the building up to code, making it ADA accessible, and converting existing offices into flexible space for the Teen Center. Rollow said that plans will ideally include storage space, a small reception and office area to support student check-ins and private conferences, and a small stage or performance space. The city is also considering tearing down the entire front façade to create a single entryway and install additional glass to bring in more natural light.
Outdoor renovations will likely include eliminating the parking spaces near the front entry for safety purposes and replacing other parking areas with walking paths and fun equipment, such as big swings, to make the property more attractive to teens and other community members. The Neighborhood Design Center has submitted preliminary renderings that are based, in part, on feedback from Teen Center participants.
Rollow emphasized that the city would continue to seek community input on renovation ideas and designs. “I should add, especially for the outdoor space, we would have opportunities for the public to see, weigh in, provide input — just the same as we’ve done for other park renovations. We especially want the folks who will be the users, who live in the neighborhood, to have the chance to see pictures and say, ‘That looks like it would be fun,’ or ‘I’d never use that,’” he said.
Given the necessary renovations, the new site will not be open for the 2019-2020 school year. Rollow said his hope is that it can open the following school year, but that will depend, in large part, on financing and grant support.
According to Rollow and Youth Programs Supervisor Saarah Abdul-Rauf, the Teen Center’s primary needs are space, additional tutors and a third youth programs coordinator. Rollow said that on tutoring nights last school year, the Magruder Park Community Center — with tutor/student pairs, Northstar staff and city staff — quickly filled up.
Jennifer Townsend, executive director of Northstar Tutoring, the nonprofit the city contracts with to coordinate its tutoring program, said that the Teen Center tutoring program served approximately 35 students last year and, as of press time, had a waiting list of 20 students. Townsend anticipates that the waiting list would grow once applications for the new school year start coming in.
Rollow indicated that space constraints and the need for more tutors limited the number of students who could be part of last year’s tutoring program. “The tutoring program is actually the most popular element of the Teen Center, which is not what I expected,” he said. Overall, according to Rollow, there were 76 students who regularly participated in the Teen Center last school year.
Since the 40th Avenue site won’t be ready this school year, Rollow said that the city plans to use public school facilities, in addition to the recreation center, to help alleviate the tutoring program’s space constraints. As of press time, Rollow said he had received one verbal commitment from a school administrator to use their school for the evening tutoring program.
The Teen Center will be hosting an open house for students, parents and tutors on Sept. 5 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Magruder Park Recreation Center (3911 Hamilton Street).