METHUEN — The Methuen branch of the YMCA is geared towards providing options to the youth in the community.
Whether it’s playing in a 3-on-3 pickup game of basketball, playing pool or table tennis in the recreation room, going on ski trips or attending Friday night dances, the kids of Methuen have plenty of choices.
Associate Executive Director Stephanie Lane said that Methuen has never had a youth center, although the city has always wanted to bring one in. With the new schools built, the city decided to lease the vacant Steven Barker School with the agreement it would house a youth center. The YMCA opened at its 129 Haverhill St. location in September 2003.
“This was the first youth-serving organization that has a facility and serves all of Methuen youth,” Lane said. “We do get some kids from outside the community. We get some kids that come in from Dracut and Lawrence.”
Lane said the focus of the Methuen branch was to give middle-school youth ages 11 and up options for not only after school, but on Friday and Saturday nights.
“When you see programs like ski club, Internet Cafe, Friday night 3-on-3 (basketball) leagues, that’s really our attempt to give the kids an option,” Lane said. “Rather than going down to hang out at the mall unsupervised, we’re hoping to outreach to those types of kids who will benefit from YMCA services.”
The Internet Cafe is one of the newest options for kids in the community. Although the formal grand opening is March 3, the youth at the YMCA have enjoyed the new atmosphere for the past few weeks; the renovation of the Internet Cafe was completed on Jan. 16.
“We redesigned our whole computer lab to look more like a cafe,” Lane said. “We’re going to be putting in a coffee machine and hot chocolate and snacks to sell. We ordered all types of magazines. We want it to be more inviting to kids so they can come and hang out, watch TV.”
Keith Erickson, 12, said the Internet Cafe is not just for using the computers.
“The game room is under construction, so we can do our homework in here too,” Erickson said.
The Methuen youngster said being at the YMCA is more fun than staying home. When he’s on a computer, more often than not you will find him playing some type of game.
“I go on Addicting Games.” Erickson said. “I don’t have a favorite (game).”
Ebony Freeman, 11, said she enjoys the Internet Cafe because of the fun.
“I (like) surfing the Web and hanging around with friends,” Freeman said. “It’s fun. We can have snacks, which is pretty cool and just hang out.”
A drop-in membership of $130 per year allows teens to use the Internet Cafe, game room or play basketball as part of their membership. Attending dances or going on the ski trips are not included in the membership fee.
Lane said that the YMCA has a good relationship with the four grammar schools, which helps in providing activities to the kids.
“We’re learning ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to keep a pulse on the kids,” Lane said. “We are fortunate to be able to go into the schools at lunch time and talk to the kids. Not just market to them, but to ask ‘what do you guys like to do? “What would you like to see so you will come to the ‘Y’?'”
It seems to be working. Lane said the average number of kids that attend the dances is 140, and they have roughly 80 to 90 kids enrolled throughout the school year, while numbers seem to double during the summer.
The Methuen YMCA branch has these upcoming February events:
Feb. 10, Friday night 3-on-3 basketball: Ages 11-18, 7-9 p.m.; free for members; $25 for nonmembers.
Feb. 11, Kids’ Night Out: Ages 5-9, 5-9 p.m.; dinner, movies, gym time and a craft; cost is $7 per child.
Feb. 17, Friday Night Dance: For fifth- and sixth-graders; 6:30-9:30 p.m.; $8 per person.
Feb. 18, Saturday Night Pizza and a Movie: For fifth- through eighth-graders; 6-9 p.m.; $3 per person.
Feb. 20, “No School Fun Days”: Parents who have to work on Presidents Day can drop their kids off for a day of sports, games, crafts, movies and a pizza lunch; cost is $15 per person; registration is required.
Feb. 20, Presidents Day ski trip at Pat’s Peak: Tubing is $36 per person; skiing is $40 per person; ski and rentals is $56 per person.; bus leaves at 8 a.m. and returns to the YMCA at 3:30 p.m.; registration is required by Feb.15.