CITY OF LAS CRUCES,
Club Fusion Teen Center
"One of only eleven or so in the entire country?", I asked, as I sat amazed "Don't people know how very at-risk their youth are?" The Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Las Cruces was looking for the right person to accept the challenge of managing the brand new teen center they had just opened. I was excited as I walked through the building, which had been seized by the Federal Government for illegal drug sales. How fitting that the "bad guys" had virtually handed over this property and now it would be used to help prevent future generations from following in their footsteps.
To this day, I applaud our City for taking on such a big project; one of liability, concern and great need. Risk takers willing to give it a shot for the benefit of our kids, count me in....and on September 6, 1996, they did.
Quality of Instruction
I came to this project with a background in social services and twelve years of experience in juvenile delinquency prevention. The diverse staff who would work here over the next three year period, included local teachers, lifelong musicians, recreation specialists, and a DJ with an Arts degree and a big heart for teens. Together with five teen employees, a teen advisory board and a team of twenty teen volunteers, this program would grow.
Club Fusion Teen Center is a hub within the teen community in Las Cruces. Especially affected are the teens in middle school. A safe place to come to and practice social skills, Club Fusion offers a huge variety of avenues for teens to express themselves. Whether learning to DJ in one of our DJ Training Schools, practicing an instrument during Jam Night, having a venue to express oneself through our mural work on the inside wall or through individual dance, Club Fusion was designed by teens, is run by teens, and is attended by 1500+ teens every month.
A variety of programming has proven to be the engaging factor for local kids to check out what's going on. Classes, programs, special events, and live concerts, keep things moving at a teenís pace! Teen employees invite their peers to a myriad of events through the monthly calendar they produce using computer programs in scheduling and graphics. Multimedia campaigns are worked on as a team and submitted to local media representatives to stretch every advertising dollar. The use of media in the local schools is also utilized to give even more teens an opportunity to participate in the process.
With so very many issues to address, and knowing that teens do not like lectures, Club Fusion has found unique ways to integrate education into its social and art programs. The 'No Confusion Dance Team" chose to address teen pregnancy with its first performance in public. Combining a popular song, stating teen pregnancy facts, and then performing a fully choreographed routine, these teens sent a message to their peers that perhaps being responsible is the single most important factor in teenage sexuality.
Bringing in corporations such as Peavey, who have a heart for teen issues, to offer clinics where lifelong musicians not only perform and teach, but include anti-drug messages into their stunning performances, has made an impact on our kids. Partnerships with programs such as Olympia and Big Brothers/Big Sisters offer the center as a resource. Opening the doors for local school bands to perform has provided a support for those teens who are reaching adulthood more safely through music experiences.
"No, way, no way!"....are the words which I am told resonated through the rooms every time the discussion of opening such a center would arise. One man, one who has a heart for kids, understands that the risk is certainly worth it and has vision enough to see the investment in our youth as paramount for our community's future; stood strong and gathered teens together under his wing and asked them, "What do YOU think?". Mayor Ruben Smith was the catalyst for the development and opening of Club Fusion Teen Center. Amidst all the other priorities our community faces, he continues to keep our youth at the top of the list. The original board of advisors for Club Fusion Teen Center evolved into what is now known as the Mayor's Youth Advisory Board, a board of incredible impact on behalf of teens across our city. As this board continues to support Club Fusion and is always a resource, they march forward to the next cause, under the advisement and encouragement of Mayor Ruben Smith.
Community partnerships for art, music, social, and technical programs range from DARE, to City Dance Theater to local businesses such as FXAudio. Local businesses donate everything from candy for the annual Harvest Festivals and New Year's Eve Party, to equipment to improve the awesome sound and lighting system the kids enjoy on a weekly basis.
The City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department provides Club Fusion with an annual budget of approximately $182,000. State funding towards the completion of Phase II of the facility has been awarded for the past two years. The Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, a State board appointed by the Governor of New Mexico, granted money to implement a jobs program targeted at first-time felony offenders under the age of eighteen. Many local businesses donate items for special events throughout the year.
"Only one out of eleven or so in the entire country?" What a shame other communities do not know what they are missing. We make a difference in our kids' lives. We see it when they paint, play their instrument, come in and dance, work, or take you aside to discuss an important decision they are making in their lives. JB Priestly is quoted as saying, "Like its politicians and its wars.....society has the teenagers it deserves." It is our goal at Club Fusion Teen Center to "deserve healthy, strong, well-developed teens and we will continue to work diligently to that end "One out of eleven or so?"....What a privilege!
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352