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Teens find space of their own at “The Club”

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An old Moline warehouse is now better known as "The Club" -- housing the Mississippi Valley Boys and Girls Club's new teen center. Teens say the new space is helping them get ahead both in and out of the classroom.

The Club opened to members in February, but is hosting its official grand opening on Friday.

Member Christian Sotero hopes to work in construction someday, and he knows his math homework is the key to a future job. Since joining the Boys and Girls Club a month ago, Sotero has started cracking the books open.

"I'd probably be at home right now, just sitting and watching TV. I probably wouldn't be doing my homework," Sotero said.

The new center, though, includes quiet study rooms, a computer lab with the latest Macs, and even iPads for both homework and games.

"It's a place you want to be all the time," said Sotero.

The after-school program for teens also offers homework help, recreation, and career development.

"Whether it's computer programming, music editing, dancing, fitness programs... you can think of anything, we do that here," said Teen Center Director Antonio Varela. "As long as they have fun, the career and education comes easy to them," he explained.

Before moving to the new center, teen programs were hosted at the Moline Club on 7th Street, along with programs for younger children. Teens said they are excited for a space to call their own -- complete with flat screen TVs, video games and a snack bar.

"Oh, this is big," said member Bianca Raya when comparing the new center to the old.

Most importantly, though, teens said it was ready-to-listen staff members that keep them coming back to The Club.

"I can talk to them a lot more than I can to a lot of people," said Raya.

Friday, The Club will host a grand opening that includes a ribbon-cutting and public reception from 4 to 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Boys and Girls Club will host a Day for Kids with free activities including games, food, bounce houses and contests.

Membership is just $25 for an entire school year.