Benicia teens now have a place all their own. The recently opened Benicia Teen Center is a spot to socialize and to get help from caring adults if they are feeling alone or troubled. It’s housed in a building behind Gateway Church on Military West, a block from Benicia High School and within walking distance or a short bus ride from Benicia Middle School.
With its theme of “Helping Youth Live a New Day,” the new center came from tragedy and loss, but is a gift to the community’s youth. It is dedicated to the memory of Benicia teen Kyle Hyland, who committed suicide in December of 2014. “We want the Teen Center to be a place where teens can socialize and support each other and have access to caring adults in the community so they don’t suffer from feeling alienated—so they can get help with problems they might be having,” said Kyle’s mother, Barbara Gervase, the center’s founder.
The center opened Friday, January 22, and it’s a comfortable hangout space that includes large sofas and chairs, a big screen for movies, a coffee/cafe eating area, ping-pong table and foosball, with the anticipation of a pool table in the near future. It will be open 1-6pm every Friday until at least mid-February. After the foundation secures background checks on all adult volunteers, more hours will be added. The intent is for the center to be open 3-7pm Monday-Thursday, 1-8pm Friday and 1-10pm Saturday.
As noted on the Kyle Hyland Foundation for Teen Support’s website, Kyle often complained, “There is nothing to do in this town!” A musician, Kyle played the piano and guitar and had been in various bands since the age of 13. Envisioned as a one-stop spot for youth aged 13-19, the Teen Center is a place where young people can play music, make art, watch movies, do homework, play games or just hang out in the lounge area.
Counseling, mentoring services and resources are available for both teens and parents. Gateway Church Rev. Jerry Pollard and his congregation donated the building as a way to serve young people. “We felt like we needed to see what else we could do,” Pollard said. The building currently serves the church’s youth ministry and has a kitchenette, TV, stage and sound system. Donations of games and furniture for the center have poured in. More than 60 people have signed up as volunteers.