U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen took a tour of the recently opened teen center at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club on Nov. 25.
The teen center has been open since September.
The $2 million project was funded through a mix of government grants and money raised through local fundraising efforts.
“We did this part from a grant, part raised through the auction and the golf tournament,” said Don Hatch, Tulalip tribal member and former board member.
“This is the biggest we could have for our kids. We can be proud of it and the kids can be proud of it,” he said.
The club extension was needed to encourage teenagers to stay with the club.
“Their teen attendance has tripled and quadrupled since it opened up,” said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County.
“Which is fulfilling the purpose of what we wanted, the community wanted and the tribal council wanted,” he said.
Before, kids were ‘aging out’ of the club and drifting away after getting old enough.
“As kids got to a certain age they were getting crowded out of the regular club space and there wasn’t enough to keep them connected,” said Tsoukalas.
The new center provides a state-of-the-art speaker system for music, multiple stations for computer programs or video games and other activities for teens.
Everything is “pretty much the newest things on the market,” said Tyler Koble, an engineer from NPCE Technology Solutions who helped setup the center.
There is also a learning wall that provides learning games such as math problems.
“Right now they have to do the math problems on the screen and [physically] hit the right answer. It seems silly but the kids love it,” said Koble.
Larsen said the teens seemed to enjoy the new center.
“They could take the energy from the kids and power this place,” he said. “It’s really quite an investment in Tulalip and their partners to provide a place for younger kids on their reservation.”
The center also continues to grow what was the first Boys & Girls Club in the state on a native reservation and one of the first in the country.
“Now it has become a model for the other tribes in the state,” said Tsoukalas. “We have seven clubs now open on reservations, and that all started here in Tulalip.”
Hatch said the Tulalip Tribes have helped other Native communities get their clubs off the ground.
“We vouched for Bill and all the things he’s done for us,” he said.
Larsen said both Native communities and the Boys & Girls Club have similar goals.
“The partnership between the Tulalip Tribes and the Boys & Girls Club is an important one,” he said.
“I was a Boys Club kid,” in Arlington, he said, so he said he knows that the Boys & Girls Club is meant to help youth.
“Similarly, Tulalip wants to invest several generations down the road. You take both of their missions together and it forms a great partnership,” he said.