FRANKLIN (Somerset) – Township teens will have a community space to call their own starting Saturday, when the Franklin Township Youth Center at 429 Lewis St. will officially open its doors with a 1 pm grand opening ceremony and 5 pm Youth Fest.
The two-story building has a capacity of 900 and includes exercise facilities, a full court gym with 7,000 square feet of playing space, audio and visual studios with recording and design capabilities, open meeting space, lounges and is a satellite branch of the Franklin. Township Public Library.
A video game room, dance studio, maker spaces, rooms for arts and crafts, a snack bar and counseling services are among the recreational, educational and social services offerings.
The 25,000 square foot facility cost $ 12 million.
“The center will be the spark that lights the flame to empower the next generation of future leaders,” said Councilwoman Kimberly Francois.
The grand opening ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting and presentations by local officials and community leaders. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman will be presenting a $ 1 million House Appropriations Committee Community Project Funding grant award. The grant, applied for by the township, was part of $ 7.3 million in grant requests Watson Coleman recently announced for the state’s 12th Congressional District.
The doors of the center will open again at 5 pm for youth grades six to 12 to participate in the Youth Fest, including free recreation activities and information sessions.
Both of Saturday’s events are free and will highlight the recreational programs, resources and social services available to township youth grades six through 12.
Operating under the umbrella of the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Franklin Township Youth Center addresses youth needs through programming and partnership with youth service organizations, such as the Education Equity Foundation, Middle Earth, Raritan Valley Community College and the Somerset County Family Crisis Intervention. Unit.
Francois sparked the idea for a youth center in 2007 when she founded the Franklin Youth Initiative.
“It was during that time it became very apparent to me that kids needed things to do, and they needed opportunities to gain life skills, and it was obvious that kids needed a safe place to be,” Francois said.
After conversations, field trips, surveys and community input, the Franklin Youth Initiative’s Teen Drop-Off Center got underway in 2011. Then, a dilapidated empty building was found on Lewis Street and eventually was purchased by the township.
In August 2019, the township held a groundbreaking ceremony for the youth center, with an initial opening date in late 2020. The pandemic put those plans on hold.
“It is humbling to see our hopes and dreams come to fruition with the opening of our youth center,” Francois said. “This truly demonstrates that when we come together as a community, anything is possible.”
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Parents may register their child for membership and the Youth Fest at franklintwp.recdesk.com/Community/Home. For more information, call 732-873-7292, email Youth.Center@franklinnj.gov or visit www.franklintwpnj.org/youthcenter.
Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter for MyCentralJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Contact: Cmakin@gannettnj.com or @CherylMakin.