Phillip Potenziano is superintendent of Brunswick schools.

For kids in the Brunswick School Department and in the greater Brunswick community, having a place to go outside of school where they can have fun, feel safe and, most importantly, feel seen can make the difference between being happy and healthy or not. Whether it’s after school or during the summer, the Brunswick Area Teen Center is a safe haven for young people and I’ve seen the effects it has on our students.

Stacy Frizzle-Edgerton – executive director of People Plus, which runs the Teen Center – tells me, “When kids come here, they just blossom. They often come in quiet and shy, but it never takes longer than two weeks for them to relax, let down their guard and become part of the group.”

Research shows that youth who participate in after-school programs and community centers gain crucial skills and opportunities they might not otherwise have. According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, kids in these programs “can reap a host of positive benefits in a number of interrelated outcome areas – academic, social-emotional, prevention, and health and wellness. These are the skills that many suggest are necessary for youth to succeed in the 21st-century global economy and world.”

Stacy says the program levels the playing field, adding, “cliques that exist at school dissolve here; they make new friends and there’s a sense of acceptance and support. Plus our program coordinator Jordan Cardone-Ruwet is an expert at reading the room … recognizing who’s comfortable and who’s not and then pulling people in or giving them space.”

Currently, there are up to 25 students per day visiting the TeenCenter, with approximately 80% from our school district and 20% from SAD 75 (Topsham). I’ve noticed that kids who go to the center gain confidence. They also treat each other well at school regardless of their friend groups, and that brightens my day.

There’s something for every student in grades 6-12 who want to participate. Options include card games, board games and art supplies. Stacy says that chess is a big draw this year and everyone loves a rousing game of dodgeball. There’s also an outdoor basketball hoop, a pool table and acoustic guitars, as well as an array of tech-based gaming systems such as PS3, Wii and Xbox. And lots of food.


Kids in the program rank food as the No. 1 thing they love about the center. We know how being hungry can negatively impact students’ success (my column last month) and at the center, they have access to a full meal each day. Just so you know, they ranked the staff and friends as No. 2, and the games were No. 3.

This year, the Teen Center program is, for the first time, picking up kids from school and bringing them to the program on Union Street. Parents were having trouble with transportation, so the center raised more than $50,000 through private donations, grants, foundation funding and business sponsorships to buy a van. Now the kids who need a ride get one.

Also this year, our school board the the Teen Center pulled off a Christmas miracle. We came together with the local Rotary to collect, wrap and deliver gifts to families who would not have had Christmas gifts otherwise. When the sleigh bells started ringing, we provided gifts to more than 50 families. I love that it was a true community effort and I was proud that BSD could be involved.

Located in the People Plus Center at 35 Union St., the Teen Center program opened in 2005. During the school year, BATC is open Monday through Thursday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. In the summer, those hours change to 1:30-4:30 p.m. Both membership and food are provided at no cost.

In my next “Brunswick Buzz” podcast episode, out on Feb. 16, I’ll be visiting with Stacy. I hope you’ll tune in and learn more about why this invaluable service is truly a community treasure.

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