Youth Council brainstorms ideas for Boys & Girls Club teen center

ARLINGTON – When the new teen center at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club opens in early spring, give the Arlington Youth Council high marks for the hip interior design.

The seven-member council made up of middle- and high-school students met twice with Boys & Girls Club leaders to speak on behalf of their peers for how to outfit the center.

Youth council members wanted it to house a wall-mounted, large, flat-screen TV for movie nights with surround sound, computers, gaming center, tables for studying, wi-fi, DJ station with lighting system, and, a must for teens, device-charging stations.

Surprisingly, Boys & Girls Club director Bill Kinney said, the teens’ ideas aligned with what adult club leaders were thinking.

Assisting with teen center planning is just the latest contribution of the youth council, which formed in September to advise the mayor and City Council regarding youth-related issues in the community. Teens wanted a recreation space. This fit the bill.

Both Arlington and Darrington have created youth councils as one of 11 goals among strategies in the Arlington-Darrington Community Revitalization Plan in their pursuit of America’s Best Communities status. The cities, in their bid to revitalize their communities economically in the aftermath of the Oso mudslide, are jointly one of eight finalists in the ABC competition. The winner could gain as much as $3 million to stimulate the local economy.

The group knows that the time, talent and leadership they are giving is meaningful as the inaugural council, and each of them makes the connection beyond school to think about the community’s best interests.

Arlington High School senior Morgan Bryson said she joined because, “I wanted to become more connected to the community, especially before I graduate at the end of the school year.”

Fellow AHS senior Mikayla Beckley said, “I wanted teens and youth to be more involved in the community. There was so much I didn’t know.”

Beckley said she has often heard students say they are bored, and they have nothing to do. She hoped serving on the youth council would serve as a platform for bringing teens more opportunities for things to do.

Olivia Walker, an eighth-grader at Post Middle School, said, “I wanted to make a difference in my community and make change for the better.”

Haller Middle School eighth-grader Cole Cramer learned about the youth council from his dad, and he chose to step up.

“When you’re in school, you’re part of a community, but when you’re in clubs you have a say in the community, and you put yourselves out there as leaders,” he said.

Alec Villa and Zoe Tapper from AHS and Zack Bailey at Weston High School also are on the youth council.

Mayor Barb Tolbert said the youth council is one of her favorite projects that has happened in the past year. “It has been great to see the ideas the teens have come up with. They’ve been helpful in telling what teens need, and what’s missing.”

Sarah Lopez, city recreation manager and liaison to the group, said she also has been impressed.

“The youth council creates a connection between youth and city government so we hear the voice of young people and what their needs are,” Lopez said. The hope is that after college or pursuing entry-level careers, they will return to become involved in making the community where they grew up a better place.

The group met with its Darrington counterpart for a retreat at Camp Killoqua, where they shared unfiltered reviews of what’s good about their communities, and what needs improvement, from a teen perspective.

They also cobbled together a list of potential projects that they and their peers would enjoy, including a location for street art, a teen park area near the Boys & Girls Club and Quake Field for activities like life-sized foosball, baba ball and tetherball, a recording studio, a Youth Council logo and motto for shirts, and more.

Lopez said the youth council budget is $3,000, but members are now at the stage where they need to gather costs for their projects, working with city staff, and prioritize them.

Kinney attended the council’s December meeting. He offered to help the group with teen park location and equipment support.

The youth council plans to have a booth at the Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition’s “Not in My House!” forum and resource fair 6:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Weston High School. The purpose is to educate parents about how to recognize whether their child, or their children’s friends, are involved in drug use.

To learn more, visit the youth council at

For details, call Lopez at 360-403-3448 or Raelyin Jones for Darrington at 360-436-1131.

Youth Council brainstorms ideas for Boys & Girls Club teen center