How to Start a Youth Center
Step 1. Find a Location
In order to have a youth center, you're obviously going to need a venue. Permanence is the key here, as the youths who will come to you, will feel more secure if they aren't worried that the teen center will be moving all over the place. So try your best to start out in a location you can stay in.
When you look for a location for your teen center, you'll want to try to find a place that has plenty of room. Some of the better recreational centers that I've experienced have had make shift gymnasiums in them and some decent land outside. This gave them the opportunity to host a wide variety of activities regardless of the weather.
Having at least a kitchenette in your youth center is a good idea to, even if you don't intend on serving food. At very least it will give your staff a chance to keep themselves charged with coffee and fresh food while they work.
You'll also want to put some time into picking out a good location. Youth centers often do best when they are near a few schools, as this gives youths the chances to easily remember where your youth center is and how to get to it.
Step 2. Attractive Activities
Many youth centers have a hard time attracting youths to come and enjoy the centers, mostly because they focus on activities that they feel parents would want their kids to get into. While this is a logical theory, in the long run it doesn't really help. The reason is because teens will do what they find interesting, regardless of whether or not their parents would approve. So your job is to find a good middle ground.
It's not always easy to figure out where that balance is, so I would suggest finding a teen or youth in your area who might be interested in helping you connect, if you are having a hard time finding the balance between what teens are interested in and what parents won't get upset about.
Many great youth centers have:
*Break dancing classes
*All Ages Band Competitions
There are lots of options you could choose from, the most important is to choose the ones that go over well in the long run. Otherwise most youths will find other places to be.
3. Volunteer Staffing
In order to effectively run your youth center, you'll need a staff. And since most youth centers are non-profit, you'll want to seek out a volunteer staff. Some of your options for getting your staff are:
~Put out an ad looking for adults who would be interested in volunteering
~Offer volunteer jobs to highschool and college grads who want to build their resume
~Have some of the youths who frequent your center become part of your staff
4. Community Action
There's nothing like getting out into the community and showing that youths can make a big impact. It's a good for the youths as it is for the community. You might consider having some events like:
*Planting trees on Arbor Day
*Offering a "parents night" out, where teens can run a temporary daycare while local single parents get a small break to go out.
*Cleaning up litter in city and rural parks
*Running an occasional soup kitchen for those in need
As a non-profit, you'll need to spend a decent amount of time fundraising to keep up maintenance and activity costs. So here are some ideas to help you keep things going (or to get them started):
1. Apply for government grants
2. Host a Doggy Wash
3. Have car washes
4. Do bake sales
5. Have art contests
6. Ice Cream socials
7. Rent out your venue occasionally
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