Canton offers teens a safe place after school

The B.L.O.C.K. teen center gives parents an alternative for their preteens, teens after school

Serena Baker loves having a place to go after school.

"My mom kind of works and I really didn't want to be home by myself, so she decided to take me to an after-school care place and I thought this one was the best one," Baker said.

Baker, who is in seventh grade, and her mother decided on the B.L.O.C.K. Youth and Teen Center in Canton Township.

"I come here Monday through Friday every day of the week after school, and my favorite thing to do is just come and hang out with my friends, do the activities here and just hang out with the staff too because the staff is really fun," Baker said.

B.L.O.C.K. stands for Building Leaders Out of Canton's Kids and is inside the Canton Administration Building on South Canton Center Road.

It's a program for children 11 to 17 years old, both residents and nonresidents of Canton Township.

"What we do is pick kids up from their schools, middle schools and high schools and shuttle them to the facility here, and then there is different programming for them every day here," said Laura Mortier, a Canton recreation specialist who runs the B.L.O.C.K. "There is what our facility has: foosball tables, air hockey, video games, and movies, a computer lab, a music room, homework. Then our programming: our art classes, we have a Teen TV program, glee club, every day from 4:30 to 5:30 there's something going on."  

The B.L.O.C.K. center is an option for families with parents work and don't want their children home alone or for kids who just want someplace to go to interact with other kids and participate in activities.

"Keeping them busy during some of what we call the dangerous hours or after school when kids aren't supervised," Mortier said.

The program is open to all kids, including special needs students and those from low-income areas.  Mortier says they have an outreach program that helps some students attend for free if their families cannot afford the fees.

The teen center is supervised, and students must follow rules.

"They want to keep us in line and keep us on the right track, and just helps everyone to be safe and no one get hurt," Baker said.

"There's a lot of different things you can do here like play games and get on the computer," said William Davis.

Davis, a 10th-grade student at Plymouth High School, likes that The B.L.O.C.K center is a safe place.  There are even signs on the wall saying it is a bully-free zone.

"Everybody's really friendly here, so you don't have to really worry about that stuff," Davis said.

Baker likes the age differences and the programming offered at The B.L.O.C.K. center.

"I do the art club, glee club and teen TV," said Baker.   "It's kids like my age who are here, so I can relate to them more, and kids a little bit older and a little bit younger, so I could learn a little from the older kids and mentor the younger kids," said Baker.

"I talk to some of the younger kids and kind of give them advice on school and friendships, you know, try to like, not let them slip up and do something wrong," Baker said.

Mortier says their location, on the third floor of the Canton Administration Building, helps them offer more to the kids.

"It's really nice because we have Canton leisure services right next door, we have the Police Department in case we need anything, and then being on the campus with the library and the Summit (on the Park), we've teamed up a lot with them," said Mortier.

Mortier hung out at The B.L.O.C.K. center when she was younger and said she understands the value it can have to the community  because it builds confidence in the children.

"There some of the most, as we know; we've all been through them -- there are some of the most awkward years for kids, and just really to be able to be in a place where they can be themselves, it's safe it's supervised," said Mortier.  "We have awesome staff here who are mentors to the kids that are going into the education field."

The center also has a tutor available to help the kids with their schoolwork.

"I don't even want to look at it as an after-school program or a child care facility. It's really just a place for them to grow," Mortier said.  "You don't just have to come here if your parents work and don't have any where to go after school.   You can come even if your parents are home."

The staff said they watch the kids grow up in program and take ownership of it.

"When they're 17 they're becoming kind of our helpers here. They're assisting the staff, they're helping plan some of the events here," said Mortier.  "It's really, really cool. They appreciate the space, and like I said, they kind of  feel like they own it in a way, and they share that with each other. It's pretty neat."

The B.L.O.C.K. is open until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Fridays until 10:30 p.m.   Fridays are often a teen night out with special events or field trips planned.

Mortier said the program is very affordable.   "When you buy a membership and do the math it's like $2 a day for a resident to come here, so, not only is the child care part of it  very affordable, it's super safe and it's super structured."

For information on costs and the program, click here.

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