In the mid to late seventies, Tenafly’s League of Women Voters surveyed the residents of Tenafly to determine their needs and desires for the community. One of the requests was for an after school program due to the rise in latchkey kids in the borough. This program began in the basement of the old high school and moved to several other locations before finally landing in a building across the street from the current Senior Citizen Center. In the early eighties a fire destroyed this building. In 1987, several years after the fire, the Youth Center was reopened in Tenafly Middle School.
In June of 1989, Mark Slawson join the Tenafly family as Director of Youth Services. Under his leadership and guidance, there was a significant increase in the attendance at the Youth Center. Due to this increase as well as an increase in the enrollment of students in the Tenafly Public School system, a decision was made to build a "Teen Center." The residents of Tenafly, old and young along with the Youth Service Advisory Board, the Mayor and Council, and many other borough departments join together to raise over $100,000 to achieve this goal.
Home Away From Home
Today, the building that you see is due to the incredible dedication and work of the people of Tenafly. This remarkable and irreplaceable service that the Borough offers its middle and high school aged residents depicts our mission statement of "Your fun and save home away from home, where you can enjoy your friends and your friendships in a nonstructural social recreational atmosphere."
Many parents from other towns registering their children for the Teen Summer Camp and/or those that attended activities being held on the municipal field have been in awe of the Youth Center. They have said that they wish their towns had a similar facility but more frequently stated that their towns need one.
The uniqueness of the program is that the middle and high school aged residents want to be here. The Youth Center is a drop-in center, not a drop off center. The difference is at a Drop-In-Center the students can come and go as they please. In a Drop-Off center, the students are not permitted to leave without being signed out by a parent/guardian. The decision to be a Drop-In center was made because we want the students to want to come to the center and not be made to come. With an attendance of 70 to 80 students Mondays through Thursdays, 100 plus on Fridays and averaging around 35 students on Saturdays, this decision has proven to be the right one.