The Castle Hill YMCA reopened its teen center on Friday, December 2 following two months of refurbishing and renovation.
Following a ribbon cutting in the afternoon, teens from the community got to use the new facility which now has new technology, new floors and new furniture.
The refurbished center was funded by the Pena & Kahn law firm.
Allan Torres, chief operating officer of the firm, worked with his assistant Edgar Velez and his colleague that works in construction, Jose Mercado.
“I want to give back to the Y,” said Torres, a member of the Bronx YMCA Board of Managers. “I’m from the Bronx and my wife is from this neighborhood.”
Torres said he, Mercado and Velez were at the facility till 10 p.m. at times painting, cleaning, installing a new floor and wiring new technology.
The group began work in early October and finished the center, now called the Pena & Kahn Center for Youth Developent, in late November.
In addition to the new furniture and new computers, the room now includes an Xbox 360, Amazon Fire Sticks and an Amazon Echo.
It also has a refurbished pool table and air hockey table.
Sharlene Brown, executive director of the Bronx YMCA, is very pleased with the teen center’s new look.
“It’s important because on Friday night’s we have our teen program here,” said Brown. “The teen center just adds to the space and the activities that they can do.”
She added that the various games within the room create a safe and social space for the teens.
“Social time is important for the teens in a safe environment and that’s what [the teen center] provides,” Brown said.
The teen center shares a building with a full basketball court which is a staple for kids who attend the facility.
In addition the Bronx YMCA campus has a dance studio and swimming pool.
Stephanie Navarro, the youth and family director at the Bronx YMCA, discussed the importance of children having multiple options.
“You have children that aren’t athletic so they’re not going to be on the court, they’re not going to be in the dance studio and they’re not going to be swimming,” said Navarro. “Teens will come [to the center], they’ll do they’re homework and it will give them an opportunity to have a space that’s for them.”
“It will give us an opportunity to continue to build the culture of our branch around youth development,” she added.
Torres said he will be using the room to help students build their resumes and prepare for job interviews.
In addition he said he is hoping to eventually have three teen interns from the YMCA at Pena & Kahn and have one teen work part time at the firm.
The Castle Hill facility is currently the only YMCA in the Bronx, however, by 2020 it will be one of two facilities.
Elected officials announced in August that the Edenwald YMCA, which will include a full-length basketball court, swimming pools, an indoor track, a wellness center, a child care facility and multi-purpose room, would start construction..