It's cool, it's fun and it's where teens can hang out, play pool, practice their skateboarding techniques at the professionally designed (and popular) skate park, eat a healthy snack made from local products, learn to play guitar and drums and enjoy live music, all under the supervision of a staff of adults who's mission is to create a safe and comfortable haven for area youth.
Bristol's Hub youth center is part of the Bristol Recreation Department. Over the years it has grown in both its mission and its offerings to area teens. Recently the building, located near Mt. Abraham union High School and the Bristol Rec field, has undergone extensive renovations, including raising the ceiling, installing circuitry to support stage lighting, upgrades to the kitchen area and the installation of a new stage that cleverly doubles as an indoor half-pipe for foul weather skateboarding. However, it's the people who run the Hub that give it a unique character that teens find comfortable and reassuring. Officially, Jim Lockridge is the Director, Ryan Krushenick runs the music program and Erin Buckwalter directs the Nutrition and Garden programs and all three pitch in together to make the place run smoothly, with the help of assistants Alara Bourgeois, Josh Tanner and a number of volunteer helpers.
The Hub is a comfortable place to hang out after school, curl up on a couch, talk with friends, play video games or do homework. The atmosphere is very welcoming and kid friendly. There are two pool tables, a foosball table, a video game station and a television for kids who just want to "chill". Every person who visits the Hub is required to read and sign a copy of the House Rules, which boil down to "no hate, no violence, no drugs, and respect (for self and the Hub). The Hub staff is always present to keep a friendly eye on things, help with homework or provide a listening ear when needed. The snacks are all healthy but made with young appetites in mind. A recent weekly snack menu included blueberry muffins, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and pizza donated by a local pizza restaurant.
The Hub depends on support from the Town of Bristol and various grants to sustain its programs. They were recently awarded $15,000 from the Vermont Department of Labor Summer Youth Employment program to hire six to eight young people to create a community garden, help with lawn care and maintain the skate park. The teens will learn valuable job skills, stay involved with the Hub during the summer months, and help make it a better place for all. Ground was broken recently for the new garden and according to Erin, the produce will be used to create healthy snacks, such as salsa, salads and dips, and may be sold at the Farmer's Market to teach entrepreneurial skills. Unused produce will be donated. The Hub has also just received grants from the Bristol Friends of the Arts, the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust, the Vermont Women's Fund, and a fitness program grant from the Vermont Coalition of Teen Centers. A grant application to the Children's Trust Fund is pending.
The Hubs music program offers free guitar and drum lessons for all levels. Lessons are given in a private space that provides a measure of comfort to beginners who aren't quite ready to have an audience for their first musical attempts. When they are ready to debut in public, they can do so at the Hub's Open Mike nights. In addition, the Hub sponsors concerts, with the caveat that it is a teen center, not a nightclub, and bands and attendees must comport themselves in a suitable fashion, including treating any visiting police officers or town officials as guests should they happen by. Ryan is also scheduling a large multi-band concert on July 3 and 4 called the Screaming for Change Festival. The event will feature more than a dozen hardcore punk bands whose music promotes a positive message for teens. The lineup includes My Revenge, Relics, Ghost Hunt and Ryan's own band, Unrestrained and many others. Admission proceeds will go to the bands, and proceeds from concessions, which will include a variety of vegan foods, will help fund the Hub's music programs.
Hub events, the complete contract of Hub rules, photos and other information about their offerings and happenings are posted on the Hubs page on the Bristol Recreation Department's website at www..bristolrec.org.