Batavia Park District

The Batavia Park District is seeking input from middle-school and high-school students to garner feedback on what programs to offer at the district's teen center. (Alexa Aguilar, Chicago Tribune / January 13, 2014)

The Batavia Park District wants to re-invent the Batavia Teen Center for today's teen.

When it opened in 1996 as one of the area's first places dedicated to young people, Friday night events, trips, and after-school programs were popular, said Kristin Bykowski, the park district's recreation supervisor in charge of teen programming.

But participation has dwindled, the after-school program is no longer offered, and the space at 27 N. Prairie St. no longer offers any programming.

"We feel like the teen center has been status quo for quite some time, and participation is starting to decline," Bykowski said. "We want to ask the current teen what it is it that they want.

"We're struggling. We're not kids, and we don't know what they're thinking. I'm sure things have changed with what they would want out of a teen center. That's why we want to hear their ideas."

The park district is hosting three focus groups for middle-school and high-school students this week. It also plans to visit the schools to garner feedback and ideas from parents and other Batavia residents, Bykowski said.

The idea is to unveil new programming by the fall, she said.

Park district officials will focus on offering programs that teens can't find elsewhere, she said.

A longtime staple of the teen center – the Friday night theme nights – have seen a significant drop in participation, she said. When the center first opened, there was a designated night for each grade, and 100 to 200 teens would attend the East Side Community Center for a night of games, concessions and a DJ. Now, all the grades combine into one Friday night event and attendance is between 30-50 young people.

The teen center also offered an after-school program called "The Hub" at the Prairie Street house for a few years. It was popular at first, but participation dwindled until the park district had to shut it down because it was too expensive to staff it with such a low participation rate. Bykowski said the same thing happened to a summer camp that was offered.

"Other communities have had to close their teen center because interest had fallen so low," said Bykowski. "… We don't want to do that. We really don't want to go away."

The park district is also looking to form a teen advisory group that would meet monthly so that officials can hear regularly about teen trends and interests.

If students cannot attend the focus groups this week, they are also welcome to provide feedback on forms at the park district or on the Batavia Teen Center's Facebook page, she said. The focus groups are scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 14 and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 15, and for high school students. Middle School students are scheduled to meet from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan.14 at the Peg Bond Center. Refreshments will be served. | Twitter: @TribLocal