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Teenagers' new place to be is EX3

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

If Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Daryl Jackson isn’t enough to attract kids and parents to the grand opening of Federal Way’s new teen center, maybe some playing time on some unreleased video games might do the trick.

If nothing else, some might want to check out one of the few teen-dedicated spaces in the city, where local kids soon will be able to see shows, record demos, work on homework and participate in activities they’re actually interested in doing.

The grand opening of the 16,000-square-foot EX3 Ron Sandwith Teen Center is scheduled for 4 p.m. today at the center, 31455 28th Ave. S. next to Truman High School. In addition to the excitement provided by Nintendo and Jackson, the grand opening will feature tours of the center, a club dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony, and several guest speakers.

A number of local dignitaries, including city and county government officials, school board members, and business and community leaders, will be in attendance, but officials are hoping teenagers will come, too, to check out the new facility.

City officials are excited about the EX3 Ron Sandwith center, which they believe will offer a safe place for everyone, including those teenagers who sometimes slip through the cracks: the ones who aren’t interested in athletics or church or extracurricular activities.

Several business and community leaders are hailing the new center, which they expect will provide local teenagers with a safe, fun place to hang out. According to the King County Department of Community and Human Services, there are more then 6,000 teenagers in south King County who need a place to go and something to do after school and during the summer.

Not to leave a call unheeded, the Boys and Girls Clubs’ newest center will feature a range of amenities for local teens: tutoring and test preparation, a place to study or do homework, career assistance and, of course, fun.

On the academic side, the center offers a 2,000-square-foot learning lounge, a computer lab and a meeting area where teens can get homework help or study together. A Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant will pay for certified teachers — not just enthusiastic tutors, though they’ll be available, too — to help Sandwith Center teens with homework and test preparation.

In addition to providing sustenance and snacks, the center’s café will offer classes and employment opportunities for teenagers interested in boosting their work experience. Wild Waves, a major sponsor for the center, will draw its summer work crew from the teen center’s regulars.

And then there’s the fun.

Similar to other teen centers around the country, Sandwith Center staff intend to provide teen-generated programming that local teenagers are actually interested in doing. Boys and Girls Club staff will be working with local teen boards to make sure the center provides safe, fun and relevant activities, learning opportunities and educational discussions.

The center also has space for live music and is in the process of outfitting a recording studio, where local bands, musicians or vocalists can record their own albums or demos.

More than 200 businesses and donors supported the EX3 Ron Sandwith teen center, which is now open from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Boys and Girls Clubs of King County president and CEO Daniel Johnson noted the community is “extremely excited” about the center’s opening.

“The South King County teen population has historically been vastly underserved with few places to turn to for safe, fun and exciting after-school and summertime activities,” he said. “EX3 is now the place teens can go for everything from academic support and career guidance to sports, the arts and cutting-edge technology.”

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