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10-Year-Old Center a Big Hit With Teens

March 13, 2000|JOSH KARP

When Kyla Hall moved to Thousand Oaks from Van Nuys in July, the 12-year-old knew she needed a place to spend her afternoons once school started.

Both her parents work, and, unlike Kyla's former campus, Los Cerritos Middle School doesn't have an after-school program. But Kyla wasn't left stranded.

Like nearly 300 other kids every school day, she spends her afternoons at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center.

The center, which recently held its 10th anniversary celebration, offers students a place to do their homework, take classes, play sports and hang out with friends.

Whether hosting step aerobics or a battle of local bands, the center has been a huge success for kids since it opened in October 1989. More than 900 teenagers attended a recent Valentine's Day dance.

"I don't think anybody could have anticipated the success," said Karen Lindsey, recreation services manager for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, which manages the center.

Kyla works on her homework, plays basketball, takes a billiards class and studies runway modeling. She is also a member of the center's Student Union after-school program and the center's Teen Leadership Club, which helps promote volunteerism.

"I don't think I would have as fun of a life if I weren't here," Kyla said. "At home, there are two girls who live near me, and they are both younger. But here, it's basically all teens, and I'm around people my own age."

In the early 1980s, some Newbury Park High School government students told the Thousand Oaks City Council that the city needed a place for teenagers.

The city explored the possibilities, and the council approved the center in the mid-1980s, Lindsey said.

The city spends about $400,000 annually to operate the center and is considering a second teen center in Newbury Park.

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