Young students, all from North Lake Middle School, enjoy video games on big screens at the new Dan Pratt Memorial Teen Center in Lake Stevens on Thursday after school let out. From left, they are Shawn Etheridge, 11, Ayden Perez, 11, Riley Gentry, 12, Reegan Pauley, 11, and Brendon Bade, 12. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Young students, all from North Lake Middle School, enjoy video games on big screens at the new Dan Pratt Memorial Teen Center in Lake Stevens on Thursday after school let out. From left, they are Shawn Etheridge, 11, Ayden Perez, 11, Riley Gentry, 12, Reegan Pauley, 11, and Brendon Bade, 12. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

New teen center opens at Lake Stevens Boys & Girls Club

Fundraising gained momentum with the backing of actor Chris Pratt.

LAKE STEVENS — Students from North Lake Middle School started arriving at the teen center around 2:30 p.m.

That’s the first group of young people to get here most days; their school is close. Students from Lake Stevens Middle School, Cavelero Mid High and elsewhere in the city were expected as the afternoon wore on.

They settled into chairs to chat, drank soda at the curved kitchen counter, claimed seats in front of big screens in a video game room, or set up for a game of pool.

The new teen center at the Lake Stevens Boys & Girls Club opened last week. A stream of young people have been coming since.

The space is for youth in middle and high school. They’d been pushed out of the rest of the club, at 1609 E Lakeshore Dr., as the population of Lake Stevens swelled in past years. Elementary-aged children packed the building. Now, the older kids have their own hang-out again.

It’s a place for games, movies, pizza nights, homework groups and likely some new classes, including how to cook healthy meals, babysit and perform CPR. Transportation has been added to the club from Lake Stevens Middle School and Cavelero Mid High.

Ron Sarrys started as the teen director last week. He previously was program director at the Edmonds club. He and his family have lived in Lake Stevens for 12 years. His 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son go to the Lake Stevens club.

Sarrys looks forward to offering new activities for teens. Soon, they’ll start making healthy snacks in the kitchen.

“Having a center these kids can go to … it means a lot,” he said. “Not only does it keep them off the streets, but we can do some of those classes.”

Last Friday, the club hosted its first teen night in the new center. About 25 attended.

“We said, ‘We’re going to order pizza. Bring a friend.’ And they all brought friends,” Sarrys said. “These are the things I remember doing as a kid.”

There are many new families moving to Lake Stevens. Sarrys said his job is to make sure people know about the club and teen center.

Sixth-graders Faith Nance, Zoe Hopkins and Nisa Ellisare are thrilled with the space. They love the video game room, pool table and kitchen.

“It’s all separated from the little kids screaming,” Ellis said. “We don’t have to play their little games … My favorite part is probably just visiting with my friends here.”

Hopkins is a fan of the teen nights, especially when she can bring a buddy.

The girls have ideas for activities. They think it would be fun to paint rocks and hide them in local parks, or walk as a group to the lake. Cooking classes are a good idea, they said. They’re always ready for a snack.

Fundraising and planning for the teen center was in the works for a couple of years and gained momentum in 2016 when Hollywood actor Chris Pratt, who grew up in Lake Stevens, held a raffle to win a trip to a movie set with him. That brought in $500,000, on top of nearly $400,000 in state dollars and community contributions. The Dan Pratt Memorial Teen Center is named in honor of Pratt’s father, who died in 2014.

Along with allowing the club to build a larger, more elaborate center than originally planned, the celebrity connection is exciting for the teens.

“I like that this honors Chris Pratt’s father,” Nance said. “I like that he wanted to help kids.”

A public celebration is planned from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Guests can tour the teen center and may have a chance to win a club membership.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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