Letter: Writer ponders fate of teen centers, high school mixers and teen activities


Whatever happened to teen centers, CYOs and high school mixers?

How do the teens (16-19) of Harford County socialize these days? Facebook, texting and interactive gaming! They boast about having hundreds, even thousands of Facebook friends, but in reality how many do they actually physically see and do social activities with? There is nothing for most teens to look forward to on the weekends. Of course, there is the mall, spending time in local restaurants, which can be costly! And, of course; the dubious party at a" friend of a friend's cousin who lives somewhere in the area and everyone is going and I'll be careful."

My wife and I moved to Harford County 16 years ago. My two older sons were of middle school age, and middle school did have a youth activity every other Friday night. When it came to high school, they were left with the homecoming dance, reserved mainly for seniors and then remaining tickets were first come and first served and, finally, the senior prom. Not much in between.

I am 58, and back in my day, growing up in Overlea, Baltimore County there was always some kind of dance to go to on weekends. The staple of our neighborhood was the Epiphany Lutheran Church on Raspe Avenue. Perhaps many of you from the areas of Overlea, Gardenville, Fullerton, Belmar, Hamilton, Rosedale, etc. will remember this teen center in the basketball gymnasium? The church tower read "God is Love." Does anyone remember?

There were chaperons, conduct rules, dress codes, a dance committee comprised of some the teens and, yes, occasionally some trouble. But good times were had by the teens of the day, interacting with kids from other nearby communities and schools that would not have happened otherwise. Good memories and friends were made. The center was open year round, Friday night was open for basketball, pool and ping-pong with an ice cream soda bar open in the lower level. Saturday night was the dance night from 7-11 p.m., with records playing and a live band at least four to six times a year. There was a sense of anticipation that started early mid-week in looking forward to the weekend. Saturdays were sandlot football games with or against other neighborhood guys we met at the teen center. Winners and losers were usually announced Saturday night at the dance, along with next week's neighborhood match ups.

Turning to other dance events, there were high school mixers, junior ring dance and senior prom. I went to Archbishop Curley. The school would invite our sister schools, Catholic High and Mercy High, to the dances and vice versa. There was CYO at St .Michaels in Overlea, St. Clements in Rosedale, St. Dominic's in Hamilton, etc. There was a teen center at Overlea High School.

My current teenage son complains on a regular basis that the neighborhood is boring. Yes, there are others his age and he has a few friends, but there is no real social gathering; nor anything really to look forward to do on the weekend. Why?

Many teens are missing out on "life" by not developing their social skills and forging friendships and good memories to carry them through life.

Douglas G. Bennett

Bel Air

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