The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Abbie & Adam

Share Positive Place, Grow in Life Skills, & Invite Others to Visit Center


      Everyone’s story matters at the La Crosse Area Family YMCA Community Teen Center. Now having a new, beautiful building, which opened in the Fall of 2015, teens can choose more opportunities than ever before to share their talents, energy, and creativity in a positive place. Along with getting homework help and a great meal, they can engage in skill-building and recreational activities with other teens and caring adults trained to work with adolescents.

      “I like it here; I like the people here,” says 16-year-old Abbie, a junior at Central High School. “The new center is at least three times bigger and gives us more functional space.” She’s sitting next to her best friend, 15-year-old Adam, a sophomore at 7 Rivers Community High School, and he nods easily in agreement. Both spend time at the home-like center most days it’s open. Like many teens, Abbie started going to the center at the urging of a friend. Adam says he vividly remembers his mom taking him on a tour and liking the place right away. He felt disappointed learning he had to wait through that summer until eighth-grade to start going there after school. A creative and intelligent individual, Adam has a passion for board games, and he’s enjoy working on developing his own extensive strategic games. “Entertainment is a strange place,” says Adam, as he and Abbie smile and share an inside joke. To teens at the center, Adam is known as a good listener and a supportive friend. Adam and Abbie are considered strong leaders and great role models, says Lisa Luckey, Y Teen and Youth Services Director.

      The center assists teens like Abbie and Adam to grow stronger by being a part of something positive, developing leadership qualities, and learning new skills and social responsibility. “The teen center has helped me to be more confident,” Abbie says. She shares openly that she went through a rough time during her parents’ divorce. Today she’s earning excellent grades and taking classes at Western Technical College toward becoming a certified nursing assistant. She’s proud that she works as a hostess at a local restaurant and saves money for her future. Abbie and Adam encourage teens to visit the center to see if it’s a right fit for them. “Give it more than one day; try it out for at least a week,” Abbie says. “I have loved the diversity here. It has helped me to be exposed to different viewpoints.” The drop-in center is free of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Located adjacent to the YMCA-La Crosse parking lot, 1105 King St., the center requires no Y membership, no cost, and is open to all teens in eighth through twelfth grades.

​      “We’re averaging about 25 to 30 teens visiting the center each day it’s open,” Luckey says. “It’s a comfortable, safe place for teens.” An essential gathering space, Luckey says, is a new hang out, living-room-like area, complete with cozy, rolling chairs and yoga balls for seating.  The other top spot for teens is the spacious, updated kitchen area, where the teens have fun making and sharing meals, as well as doing art projects. “The kitchen is now more central to the entire house,” Luckey points out. The teens also enjoy the new outdoor deck in the nice weather.  In addition to hanging out at the teen center, teens from all grades participate in a variety of weekly clubs, which focus on leadership, art, drama, cooking, and others. Additional volunteers come in to help with these groups. Abbie and Adam have sharpened their natural leadership abilities through the center’s Leaders Club. In turn, they give back to other teens and help to make the Teen Center the best place for teens to spend their time and make positive connections. ~ by Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC