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New teen center launched

Parkway Plaza has partnered with Youth Venture to provide a dedicated and positive space for youth to hangout, with games and planned activities led by Youth Venture staff.

Founded by Foothills Christian Church, Youth Venture operates domestically through one-on-one mentorships and providing safe spaces throughout East County San Diego. With the addition of Parkway Plaza, Youth Venture now operates five after-school teen centers in East County for students between 5th and 12th grade.

“Youth Venture has been operating teen centers across east county for over 30 years. These centers are designed to provide a safe place for youth to come and learn upright character and be taught skills they can utilize throughout the rest of their lives,” said Bryce Stacy, Youth Venture director of Operations. “We are excited to open a new center in Parkway Plaza and partner with them to provide a space for students to belong and prosper.”

Parkway Plaza’s Youth Venture Teen Center was created to provide a setting where kids can connect, establish, and build significant relationships with their peers and adults as well as enjoy admission-free and drug-free activities and attractions.

“Malls have always been and always will be a gathering place for teens,” said Petra Rich, marketing and business development manager at Parkway Plaza. “At Parkway Plaza we want to ensure that this is a place that young people continue coming to while offering them a dedicated space to hangout, meet their peers and play games. We’re grateful that organizations like Youth Venture exist to help us make Parkway Plaza a better place for all.”

Stacy said the teen centers are to provide a space for students to go. He said some students are in more at-risks situation, and some are not.

“Sometimes they are just looking for fun. Sometimes they look for food. Whatever it is, we provide much of that,” he said. “We have pool tables, ping pong, video games, families offering meals throughout the week and feed the 30 or so students in the center with whatever they happen to make. We hangout. We have events that we do. We just had a grand slam event where we took them roller skating, had a kickball tournament, and took them to the big trampoline park. Just to have fun and get them to be able to do things they might not be able to do on their own.”

Stacy said Youth Venture is a Christian organization and funded through its church.

“Kids do not have to be Christians to come at all,” he said. “That is not a prerequisite. You do not have to attend our church or anything like that.”

Stacy said the relationship began with one of its church members involved in a chamber of commerce, who contacted Parkway Plaza, and in the end, decided Youth Venture would operate the teen center.

“They have many students that are coming to the mall a lot,” he said. “They are just roaming around. They do not have anything to do and are just killing time. We are coming in to provide that space so instead of running through the hallways and skateboarding, why don’t you just hang out, have fun, and meet other friends. It is a place for them to hang out. It is a place for them to be safe. There is supervision 24/7 while they are here. So, it is a place to be safe and hopefully grow, learn things, and utilize what we have to offer. Our whole goal is for them to grow up and be successful citizens.”

Rich said Parkway is excited in this partnership and bringing this new idea into the mall for teens.

“This is something that I have never seen in any other malls,” she said. “I am really excited to see how this can take off and what it can become over the next few months.”

Rich said Parkway had the Channel 933 Lounge and it was wrapping up that partnership, they were creatively ideating what to do with that space.

“We saw this need for something constructive for teenagers to do while they are in the mall,” she said. “As long as malls have been around, they have been a hangout for teenagers. It is a social scene. They come in, they get their snacks, your books for the week, and you just show up and hang out with your friends. We see this large influx of teens in the mall often. So, we said what we could do to create something positive and friendly and give them something constructive to do while they are here. When we connected with the Youth Venture team, it seamlessly worked itself out. They have this perfect program that fits the needs we had at the mall. The kids can hang out and stay out of trouble while also getting that constructive, positive environment to help them grow and foster them into wonderful young adults. Something that we are thrilled and could not be prouder in bringing to Parkway.”

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