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Nothing to do? Teen council has the answer

Help them realize the dream of a "straight edge'' club where teens can escape the stresses of life.

By PAMELA GRINER LEAVY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 31, 2000


PINELLAS PARK -- Never underestimate the power of a small group of teenagers.

A new teen council has plans for a club to be called the 61st Central Teen Center. It will be located at the Boys & Girls Club, 7790 61st St. N, Pinellas Park. The teens will unveil their plans for the center at 4 p.m. Saturday at the club.

Already open to teens is space inside the Boys & Girls Club with computers, comfortable couches, Foosball, soft drink machines and a place for meetings.

The center is for teens who are "straight edge," a popular label for those who choose to abstain from drugs, sex and alcohol.

Officially part of the Pinellas County Millennium Celebration committee, the teen council, made up of ambitious students from area high schools, has already received a $195,000 grant from the Juvenile Welfare Board. They are now awaiting word on a $1-million grant from the Eckerd Foundation. St. Petersburg Junior College (SPJC) donated the services of a staff member to assist in grant writing.

Lynda Lippman-Lockhart is the council's volunteer adviser. An honors English teacher at Seminole High School, she put out what she terms an "all call" to teenagers across Pinellas last August. About 100 teens showed up.

At Lippman-Lockhart's urging, the teens decided to commemorate the millennium by opening a center for area teens.

"We want everything that would be fun at a night club without all the trouble that goes with it," said Tara Calderbank, 17, a junior at Seminole High School and co-chair of the millennium teen council. "This is a positive alternative to a rave, a dance club that's really wild and a lot of heavy drugs like heroin are going on there."

"The 61st Central is a place for kids to hang out and get pressures and stresses off their lives, since stress is the No. 1 cause of kids getting into bad things or even committing suicide," said Matt Morton, 16, who also attends Seminole High.

Saturday's ribbon-cutting for the first phase is to let the community know what the teen council is doing and to spark further interest. In addition, members are participating this week in interviews for a professional program director.

The second phase of the 61st Central Teen Center calls for a major addition -- enough space for live music, pool tables and a peer help center offering aid to troubled adolescents. The help center will be supervised by professional counselors.

Pinellas Park Mayor William "Bill" Mischler and County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd are expected to participate in Saturday's festivities.

Entertainment will be provided by the Seminole High School Jazz Band and an alternative rock group named Tall Skinny Guys.

Lippman-Lockhart is proud of what the teen council has accomplished in 10 months. "I believe in young people and am sort of tired of hearing them say they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. The 61st Central Teen Center presents a great opportunity."

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