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Alex's Place Begins Third Year in Permanent Space.

teens perform before a packed house
teens perform before a packed house
What has been a dream for a couple of decades became a reality two years ago on December 10th when Alex's Place, the Vineyard premiere space for teens and the community, opened its doors as part of The YMCA of Martha's Vineyard.

Visit the Alex's Place website:  
http://www.alexsplace.net


Social support for teens was missing on the Island since the closure of the Teen Center which was formerly housed at what is now the EduComp building. "From then until Alex's Place opened there just was not a place for teens to socialize, create events of their own, find support and camaraderies that was not connected with school, athletics or other extra-curricular activities" said Alex's Place Director Tony Lombardi. "With the creation of Alex's Place, teens now have a hub through which the entire community can inform, inspire and enlighten them as well as help them bring entertainment, and opportunities that would not otherwise have a forum." The YMCA of MV has become THE place where teens congregate not only for Alex's Place but also for many programs and activities that occur within the walls of the Y.

“It’s important they have a sense of ownership,” said executive director Jill Robie in the Vineyard Gazette in 2011. “I don’t think there are a lot of places on the Island where teens feel like it’s theirs. The space is really like a home; it has everything a home has. I think for kids that’s really important.” 

Alex's Place has seen tremendous growth in attendance since the grand opening on December 10, 2011. "Our hope was to serve perhaps a fourth of our island teens. We thought that would be a home run." Numbers have surpassed that however, now approaching 900 unique visitors who have registered with Alex's Place sign in log. Considering that there are approximately 750 teens in the high school and then a few hundred amongst the middle schools who are 13+ this is a major accomplishment. The numbers also include teens from across the US, from California and even Hawaii, and several from Europe including Spain and the UK.

Alex's Place opens daily right after school and is greeted by a line at the door.
"Once the doors open, Alex's is flooded with 40 - 60 teens who stop in, grab a snack at the YCafe, do their homework, unwind with a game on XBox or Wii, watch TV, use our computer lab play a board game, darts, ping-pong or pool. Others arrive for their appointments for recording and mastering sessions in Studio 57. The place is always abuzz with activity. All this takes place under the caring and watchful eyes of Alex's Place mentors, known as "Team Alex". Without the tremendously dedicated team Alex's would be hard pressed to provide all that it does.

On most evenings, once the lion's share of kids return home or head off to sports, many stay late and participate in programs such as "Digital Connectors" a digital literacy program that is sponsored by Comcast. Over a dozen teens have committed two hours on each Tuesday and Thursday throughout the school year to learn about financial literacy, basic information tech and computer design, debate, public speaking, writing, and service. Each student is required to participate in 56 hours of community service, some of which takes place with Alex's outreach program to the Vineyard's Elder population called "Elder Tech Fair"

Other teens are involved in creating their very own on-line magazine, "7 Miles Out" which will make its internet debut in late January, 2014.

Weekend nights are always hopping. With a wide and varied calendar of events, Alex's Place offers teens a chance to perform at periodic concerts and a monthly Open Stage which is also open to the entire community. "Building a bridge between teens and the community is an integral aspect of our mission." says Lombardi. "Providing a space that is a vacuum for teens without regard for the importance of learning how to positively interact with all aspects of our community would not have a very profound effect. Bringing everyone together is key to validating Alex's Place as a real and vital part of the fabric of the Vineyard."

Alex's has also had its share of top flight individuals from the community join in. From Carly Simon, Sally Taylor, Kate Taylor, to Jim Belushi, Grammy winning producer Bob Marlette,  award winning songwriter Ellis Paul and Dayna Kurtz, to Singaporean guitar sensation Shun Ng, teens have had tremendous opportunity to engage in activities with people of note from around the world. 

There is so much more to Alex's Place than anyone could have dreamed. It is a place that exemplifies the spirit of community, the desire to make a difference in the lives of kids, and the undaunted spirit of all who have committed time and energy to the effort.

"Of course, none of this would have been possible without the foresight and generosity of the Alexandra MM Gagnon Foundation and the Gagnon Family and friends who have placed the legacy of Alexandra Gagnon in the hands of those who steward the facility. "We made a commitment to the Gagnon family that we would hold the legacy of Alexandra with great care and share it with our teens in the hope that it would help them find their way through the difficulties and challenges that teens face today. Her spirit is definitely present, and not a day goes by without someone asking about her story."

Others who have also joined forces to help bring the dream to reality are Comcast, who has provided all of the technical support and equipment, Crane Appliances who donated the kitchen appliances, Bernier's Markets who donated camera equipment, The Beagary Trust who help fund on-going operational costs, and so many organizations, businesses and individuals. 

"As we begin our third season, it is our hope that more of the community will consider supporting our efforts. Running an operation like Alex's can cost a great deal of money. We can not become complacent about the need for continued support. The best thing about it is that, a donor can see, first hand, the result of their donation."

To make a donation to support Alex's Place, please contact Sarah Soushek, Development Director at 508 - 696- 7171. You may also contact Tony Lombardi at 508 - 696 - 7171 ext 128. The YMCA of MV is currently holding its Annual Campaign which helps support Alex's as well as the extremely important Financial Assistance outreach to Islanders in need, a successful after school program, child watch, and so much more. "The Y is more than a gym, it is the hub for our entire community, from babies to elders and everyone in between regardless of their situations.
http://ymcamv.org


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