When 16-year-old Benicia High School student Kyle Hyland took his own life in 2014, his parents, George Hyland and Barbara Gervase, wanted to remember him in a way that gave back to the community. In 2015, they started the Kyle Hyland Foundation with the ultimate goal of opening the Benicia Teen Center, which now occupies a house on 1135 Church St.
Kyle was known for making people feel better, for playing music, and for enjoying outdoor sports. As his memorial, the Benicia Teen Center offers these opportunities to other youths in the community. It has a music room, with acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard and a drum set, where students jam. In the art room, students have made tie-dye fabric and have collaborated with some members of Benicia’s art community. The game room lets students play for fun or in competition. In the kitchen, teens learn to cook single dishes and whole meals, sometimes guided by a chef. “We want to do more of that,” Hoyle says. The facility provides space for outdoor play, as well.
“It’s a second home,” says program director, Lynn Hoyle, “welcoming Benicia’s youth, including the underserved and those looking for a safe environment”… “20 or more show up at a time … They become a connected family, looking out for each other,” she says.
In their forums, teens tackle serious subjects, discussing them at length as peers or with a guest speaker. “They definitely talk,” says Hoyle. One speaker described losing her cousin to a heroin overdose. “She was so raw with emotion; it impacted the kids on a deep level.” A family therapist leads a new support group, and a peer and two adults give teens “a caring person” with whom they can share incidents they’ve experienced. “We definitely want to help in any way we can,” Hoyle says.
The center is open from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays during summer and expand to 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 2:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 1 p.m- 6 p.m. Fridays, once schools open. In the summertime, the center offers Friday Fun Night events. So far this summer, they have had Karaoke Night, Movie Night, and Bingo/Game Night. Upcoming Friday Fun Night events include Cupcake Wars (8/2) and Cooking Night (8/16), all from 5-9pm.
The Benicia Teen Center’s website is http://kylehyland.com/, and the Kyle Hyland Foundation is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. The Teen Center is free and open to all Benicia residents or BUSD students ages 13 – 19 years old.