DANSVILLE — William Ernest Henley once wrote, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
The Dansville Community Center is partnering with Livingston County Council of Alcohol and Substance Abuse known as CASA Trinity to create TeenSpace; a program that reaches out to the community youth.
TeenSpace is located at 43 West Avenue and will be open Monday to Friday 2 to 6 p.m., and Tuesday from 2 to 7:30 p.m. There will be special programs available such as guest speakers, movie nights, game nights, and various classes geared towards teens interests.
The program is meant for any school district in the county from seventh graders to twelfth graders. Teenagers are encouraged to come to TeenSpace no matter what their walk of life is.
Dansville Central Superintendent Paul Alioto said he is glad that there is another option for students after school.
“The kids that live in the village have someplace to go,” he said. “There are some kids who don’t do after school activities, and there are some that do athletics and drama club. This gives all of them another place to go. It is within walking distance in the village.”
Dansville Central seventh grader Lydia Kruchten said she is looking forward to hanging out with other students.
“I would come to CASA HALO night,” she said. “We would hangout and play games. If I was having a bad day this would help me. I think this will be good, because a lot of the older kids get in trouble.”
Kruchten said she hopes to influence the other teens.
“I definitely hope to influence kids that need help,” she said. “We can just hangout and have fun.”
CASA Prevention Services Supervisor Dawn Landon said she enjoys being part of the CASA Trinity Team.
“The staff is very passionate about what they do,” she said. “We do a lot of educational material with adults and families. This program is just for the teenagers. There are a lot of kids in need. We think this is a great opportunity to reach out to them, and provide a good social environment.”
There will be permission slips handed to the teenagers to take home, and once they are signed the 3:30 p.m. bus can take them to TeenSpace.
“We take everyone,” Landon said. “They don’t have to be troubled kids. We don’t discriminate.”
Dansville Community Center has graciously donated their space at no cost to the organization.
“It is like a marriage made in Heaven,” Landon said. “They needed the staff, and we needed the space.”
There will be at least two CASA Trinity employees there every day. CASA Prevention Specialist Larissa Bailey will be there every day.
“Not every kid is an athlete and a scholar,” Landon said. “This provides a comfortable and entertaining place for all the kids. The athletes and scholars need a safe place too.”
Landon added it was hard to leave Dansville Central after five years of being the counselor.
“I really miss the kids,” she said. “It was really hard to pass the torch.”
Bailey said she is looking forward to working with the teenagers.
“I hope they will all be good influences on each other,” she said. “I want to get them here, and brainstorm with them what they are interested in.”
‘This is a nice and safe place,” Bailey continued. “Every room has a camera, so we can make sure everything stays appropriate.”
CASA Prevention Director Rachel Pena said this place is needed in the community.
“We need a positive atmosphere for the kids,” she said. “Kids tell you there is nothing to do. We are giving them a healthy and positive place to go. We are changing their environment to something positive.”
CASA Pure Recovery Specialist John Pritchard said it is easy for him to relate to the teenagers, since he had a rough life too.
“It is easy for me to relate to the kids,” he said. “I give them a little hope. It all starts with a little bit of hope.”
“I know what they are going through,” Pritchard continued. “We didn’t have a place like this to go to; all we had were the streets.”
CASA Prevention Specialist Rob Levy said this is a beautiful place for the teenagers.
“Most of the kids I talk to are involved in drugs, and the give the excuse that there is nothing else to do,” he said. “This will encourage kids to think about other things to do. Kids in recovery need a safe place too.”
CASA Trinity CEO Ann Domingos said she is happy to provide a safe place for teens in the community.
“There is hope for everyone,” she said. “This is a community thing. They needed something to do after school.”
Dansville Community Center Program Director Derek Wadsworth said they tried to do this years ago, but it frizzed out.
“Now we can reach a population of kids that feel forgotten,” he said. “We can give them healthy relationships. We want to help all of the kids. This is an established agency with a great track record, and this program will be around for a long time.”
Wadsworth added the rocky part of the grounds will be turned into a court for the center, and there will be a Gazebo for wedding photos as well. There will also be a gym at some point in the near future.
“This is perfect,” he said. “It has been on the hearts and minds of all of us for a long time. We want to help the kids be proud of Dansville.”
It really does take a community to raise a child, Wadsworth said.
There are about 80 children who like to come to the center’s afterschool programs, and about 25 more that want to come to TeenSpace already.
“If this program is successful they will have about 20 to 50 kids,” Wadsworth said. “That will be really great.”