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There’s a new hangout for Millbrook teens

MILLBROOK — Most libraries struggle to get teenagers into the library. In small towns and rural areas teenagers struggle to find a central hangout to spend time after school. The youth services coordinator for the Millbrook Free Library, Joan Frenzel, has figured out a way to fill both needs at once. Back in November the library held its annual Teen Alternative Fashion Show where teenagers were able to design, model and work with different mediums to create their fashions. Although the fashion show has become more popular over the years, Frenzel wanted the program to run more frequently and encompass more activities.“I decided just to keep it simple and open up the community room with food, video games and regular board games. I even bring the LEGOs in and just let them have a space to play in,” she said. “I bring my iPod with some music and it’s just a space for them.”The program is called the Teen Café, where once a month teens from the middle school and high school are welcome to stop by the Bennett Room of the library to hang out, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., on the second Friday of every month. Frenzel said that when Teen Café first started about 20 kids would show up, however word of mouth spread and now attendance is up to 40 participants. The Teen Café used to run whenever the Millbrook Central School District had an early release school day, but since there are no more early release days Frenzel changed the cafe days to Friday afternoons. “It’s a real mix; we have kids in grades six and seven all the way up to seniors,” said Frenzel. “One of the biggest things I have been impressed with is how nice the older kids are and how patient they are to the younger kids. There is an age difference and they are really cool with it. There are no problems at all with behavior or anything.”Frenzel said she has gotten a very positive response from those who do attend, who say they wish Teen Café could be open more often.“It’s a fun hangout,” said Ryan Wolff, age 11. “My older brother and his friends come here also. It’s the only place were you can do this.”Jared Liakos, age 12, said that if he wasn’t at the Teen Café he would be at home watching television. Meanwhile, Chad McLaughlin, age 11, said he enjoys attending the Teen Café for the candy and video games. Older kids also have their own reasons for joining the Teen Café.“This is my fourth time coming here,” said Kevin Gou, age 17. “I like it because it’s a nice place to relax instead of going to my family’s restaurant where I have to work and get stressed out.”Teen Café may lack structure, but its simple concept makes it popular among Millbrook’s youth.“Sometimes kids don’t need any more structure. They have a lot going on with sports and play and whatever else they’re involved in, so this is a place where no one tells them what to do and they can just hang out,” Frenzel said.Frenzel provides the food, games and Wii. Those who attend can participate in the activities if they want to, but if they want to just chill and chat with friends that’s OK too. Frenzel said the teens are starting to really catch on to the idea and spread the word among their friends, ­now they’re even making plans for the next meeting of the Teen Café.“Teens, they need a hangout,” said Frenzel. “They can go to the park if it’s nice but where else will you find free food and music and play games and Wii and not be asked to move?”That, teens agree, is the crucial question. The solution, they say, can be found at the Teen Café.The next Teen Café will be Friday, Feb. 10, at the Millbrook Free Library, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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