St. Louis, Mo. - The Oct. 3 ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL) Teen Center of Excellence in Ferguson, Missouri symbolized more than just the completion of a building, it celebrated the healing of a community and a brighter future for its teens.
The $12.4 million Teen Center of Excellence is located at 9200 West Florissant, an area where Ferguson gained national attention in 2014 for violent protests following the fatal police shooting of African American teen Michael Brown. The new facility provides a safe place for area youth ages 12-18 to gather and participate in a variety of positive activities.
Jim Clark, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, expressed the significance of the new facility to the crowd gathered for its grand opening.
“It truly is an honor and a privilege to be here today; for so many reasons to celebrate this beautiful facility that will serve tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of teens for decades to come into the future. But to me it is also a celebration of what has happened in this community and what’s possible. Five years ago, all eyes in this country were on this community, this very location, for what happened here. All eyes should be on Ferguson today for what’s happening right here,” said Clark. “I really hope you understand what you’ve done, because what you’ve done is truly incredible, remarkable and spectacular.”
The new 26,856-square-foot, three-level center, made possible by private donations, includes a nutrition education center, gymnasium, teen lounge, outdoor garden, auditorium, music and art studio, office space, intellectual commons, innovation center, and outdoor basketball and activity court.
Minority-owned KAI Build was the general contractor on the project. KAI Build Project Superintendent Cardin “Dean” Rackley oversaw the facility’s construction and was inducted in June to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis Alumni Hall of Honor. Rackley attended summer programs at the Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club as a youth.
“We were really excited to have played a key role in bringing this outstanding facility to the Ferguson community and its youth,” said KAI President Darren James. “It truly symbolizes the rebirth of a community torn apart by the events of 2014. Transforming communities is what KAI is all about.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis has a successful track record of more than 50 years in the St. Louis region as a youth services provider and will implement nationally acclaimed programs at the new Teen Center similar to those offered in the 10 locations it presently operates (seven of which are located in North County). Programming will include an emphasis on health and wellness (such as yoga, healthy habits, open gym), education and workforce development (such as college tours, ACT/SAT prep, tutoring), STEAM (such as coding, app creation, robotics) and leadership and civic engagement (such as fine and performing arts, community service, applied arts).
“Just seeing all the faces and hearing all the names today lets me know that our voices have been heard and with the club being built, it’s just a real emotional thing because these people really care about our futures. Thank you,” said BGCSTL 2019 Youth of the Year Kahalia Adams, who also emceed the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Arcturis of St. Louis was the architect on the project.