Just three days after the Sammamish EX3 Teen and Recreation Center Powered by Microsoft has officially opened it is bustling with tween and teen members playing pool, chatting with Boys and Girls Club staff members, using the computer lab and dancing to Dance Dance Revolution in front of a giant video screen.
The center is so new that there are no clocks up on the walls yet and a crew is still working on final touches to the center’s impressive stage. Members are signing in and out on paper and will be issued plastic key tags eventually to electronically check in and out. Outside heavy equipment is being used to create a second entrance to the center’s parking lot.
The center is open to Boys and Girls Club members in grades six to twelve. Currently membership is just $100 for the school year. That includes use of the center during hours of operation.
The center is housed in the old Sammamish library, at the corner of 228th and NE 8th street. It is currently open Monday through Friday after school until 7 pm and will also be open for many school holidays and during school breaks.
Parents and teens are invited to tour the center anytime it is open. Parents can register their tween or teen online, print out the receipt, then have their tween or teen bring it the first day they use the center.
Meaghan Jowdy is Operations Manager for the center. She has a BA from the UW and 16 years experience working for the Redmond and Sammamish Boys and Girls centers. Jowdy is busy unloading boxes when I arrive for my recent visit to the center. Her high energy reflects her background as an athlete who played basketball at the college level.
Right now as many as 65 members have shown up to use the center, but Jowdy is planning ahead for many more members, up to a couple hundred a day.
“We have this big space and we want it to be used,” Jowdy said.
She admits one of the challenges to building up membership may be the lack of transportation to the center. Currently the Boys and Girls club does not offer van service from any of the plateau’s middle or high schools to the Sammamish center and there are no designated bus routes that will drop kids off at the center’s door.
The center hopes to recruit many of its members from , which currently lacks wide sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes all the way from the school to where the center is located. Jowdy suggests, “parents need to let the schools know they want a bus route to the center established.”
Jowdy says the center is in the process of gathering ideas from its tween and teen members on what else they want to improve the center already has plans for a wider variety of snack options at affordable prices and more activities based on the member requests.
She says that right now plateau residents who want to support the center can help with funding for a variety of needs including a planned adjacent gym and by offering to volunteer as tutors and to provide classes to the members in an area of expertise such as music, photography, computer or art.
Residents interested in providing funding can contact Jeremy Peck, the center’s Resource Development Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org and potential volunteers can contact Jowdy directly at email@example.com.
Evan Matt is a Teen Coordinator for the center. He graduated from Eastlake in 2006 and recalls, “I had a hard time growing up here. I came back and tried to get involved.”
He recalls as a tween and teen the primary gathering place was the area’s Godfather's pizza, located where the office is now, and the parking lot. After getting his BA from the University of Colorado, where he got lots of experience planning special events for students, he was pleased to land his job at the Boys and Girls club.
Ryan Herrin is one of the club’s members Matt is playing pool with today. Herrin is a 9th grader at Inglewood Junior High. He says that he likes the center’s pool table and ping pong table.
“It will be a great place to study and play with friends or sit and talk. The location is convenient and there are a lot of schools right here,” Herrin said.
Herrin says he would like to see the center add some less expensive snack options in addition to the Emerald City Smoothies and would enjoy a “comfy reading area with bean bag chairs.” An area outside to play in would also be welcome, he said.
Redmond’s Theona Kennett, a 7th grader at Sammamish's would also like to see the center add an area outside to hang out in. She is here with her classmate April Finnin who lives in Kirkland.
Kennett and Finnin are grateful that the center provides them a safe and fun place to hang out after school until they catch a Metro bus home. April says the center will provide the opportunity “to meet new people” and that, “I like having a safe place to study where I get to hang out with friends.”
She is looking forward to using the center’s stage for open mic events and envisions fun Battle of the Bands events and singing competitions she would like to participate in at the center as well.
As Theona Kennett leaves the center to catch her bus, Jowdy checks in with her to make sure she signs out and enjoyed her time at the center. Kennett is clearly already a fan of the center after just three days, as she says on her wish list to Jowdy is “I’d like to bring guests.”