BRENTWOOD -- Within minutes of the Brentwood Police Activities League Youth Drop-in Center opening this week, local youth Sandeep Patra and Elijah Lawrence were already engaged in a friendly game of checkers.
Patra, a Heritage High School freshman, said that it is a cool place for area kids to hang out after school instead of at home alone or on the streets.
"It is usually a boring time. They are at places that they shouldn't be or getting into trouble," Patra noted.
Brentwood Police Officer Roger Wilson hopes that other Brentwood youth from 10 to 14 years of age agree and find a safe haven at the new center, which is at the Edna Hill Middle School campus. Working with youth through law enforcement for nearly three decades, Wilson said that he has heard from adolescents how boredom can lead to misbehavior and crime during after-school hours.
"If a community wants to be together and to work with the youth, we can do it and it doesn't cost a penny," he said at the grand opening on Monday.
Most of the center's arts and craft items, furniture, DVDs, musical instruments, books and games were donated to the PAL program by residents, community groups, schools and local organizations. Brentwood is only the second PAL program to operate a youth center in Contra Costa County, according to PAL leaders.
"This is good stuff," Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said. "You are going to have some fun here."
Brentwood Union School District Superintendent Merrill Grant said that the district is proud to have this center located at Edna Hill. He added that the district's focus is to educate the whole child with an emphasis on responsibility and good citizenship.
"This is a great facility that will be in action all day," Grant said.
Edna Hill seventh-grader Asanti Patton said that the center is a quiet place to do homework or gather with friends.
"It's awesome," she said. "It will help a lot of people. I have been telling people about it."
To attend the center, students must join the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities League's mentoring program and they will be assigned a mentor who will meet with them regularly.
"Mentoring is the push today," Wilson said. "We have so many youth looking for big brothers and big sisters."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: PAL Youth Drop-in Center
When: Open weekdays 3 to 6 p.m. for youths 10-14 involved in the PAL program
Where: Edna Hill Middle School, 140 Birch St., Brentwood