Sentinel Editorial: Happy Birthday, Arch Street!

Editorial featured in Greenwich Sentinal

At the foot of Greenwich Harbor sits a three-story brick building that, you can almost imagine, harkens back to a time when the harbor was a hub of commerce. It looks as if it would have fit nicely in Boston Harbor or South Street Seaport and has a storied and busy maritime history. For the past quarter century, the building has had a new storied and busy history. Instead of maritime commerce, however, it has been a safe haven. A place where teenagers can gather safely, under supervision, and participate in a number of programs meant to educate, inform and entertain. Known affectionately as “Arch Street,” the Greenwich Teen Center, housed within a former Department of Public Works warehouse, first opened its doors to our youth 25 years ago.

Today Arch Street is vibrant organization that continually evolves to meet the needs of our high school and seventh and eighth grade students. We cannot imagine Greenwich without it. In fact, it is so successful it has become a prototype for teen centers across the country.

However, Arch Street’s success was not a foregone conclusion when a core group of individuals came together to propose and shepherd the concept of a teen center into a reality. Initially it was Suzanne Prunier; she quickly enlisted her friend Judy Donahue to help pull together a committee to study the need for a teen center. Over the next six years, many people took part in the process, but a core group of adults remained at the helm, including Suzanne and Judy as well as Ambassador Charlie Glazer and State Senator Scott Frantz.

Not all residents were eager and willing to provide teenagers a place to “hang out.” Indeed, as so often happens with forward thinking ideas, there was a great deal of resistance, especially from neighbors, who did not want such a facility “in their back yard.” A youth committee was formed so that the teens themselves could lobby and explain the need for a place where they could connect with other teens. We applaud their efforts especially. Testifying before numerous committees, late into the night, is not an easy task, especially over the course of six years. Thankfully, Megan Shattuck, Wendy Ferdinand, and others persevered.

When you talk with people involved Arch Street today, there is a passion and excitement—not just for reaching this remarkable milestone, but for what the future holds. As any organization must, Arch Street has evolved to meet the needs of a very targeted demographic. Not satisfied with just holding dances for high school students, they now offer separate dances for middle school students. There is the opportunity to take yoga classes, hang out in The Greenwich Grind coffeehouse, and listen to local bands. There is also a regular schedule of panels and discussions to help parents and teens alike navigate the labyrinth we call the teenage years. This week they just held a very successful talk on “Stress, Success and Teenage Setbacks,” with the keynote given by Greenwich High School graduate Scooter Braun, the talent manager who discovered Justin Bieber.

We are excited to see what the future holds for Arch Street and its executive director, Kyle Silver. Teenage society has changed dramatically over the last 25 years and will do so again in the next. In a time when teenagers are increasingly connected by electronic umbilical cords to their devices, how do you pull them out of that world and have them interact with one another in the real world? In a community of overachievers such as ours, how do you let teens know there will be setbacks, and that how they deal with those setbacks will lead to their successes? How do we ensure there is a safe place where they can interact with one another in an alcohol and drug-free environment? The answer to these questions is simple: We must ensure Arch Street is here for the next 25 years. Seeing that some of the original board members’ now-adult children serve on the board, we have no doubt it will. Great job Arch Street—keep it up!

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