The Hyland Teen Center had its grand opening on Jan. 22, giving area teenagers a place to hang out, have fun, decompress and receive help in more ways than one.
The center had been in the works for a little over a year by the time it opened its doors. In December 2014, Benicia High School junior Kyle Hyland died by suicide, and shortly thereafter Hyland’s mother, Barbara Gervase established the Kyle Hyland Foundation for Teen Support to promote awareness of teen suicide statistics and provide support for struggling youth. One of the foundation’s goals has been to establish a teen center in Hyland’s name for high schoolers to hang out and receive help from peers and counselors.
In late 2015, Pastor Jerry Pollard of Gateway Church agreed to lend space for the center in an unused building behind the church. The center had its grand opening Friday, Jan. 22, and Gervase says it attracted a large crowd.
“We had over 80 kids come to the grand opening,” she said. “It was a great success, and they had a lot of fun.”
The center currently has a variety of features for teens, including a TV lounge area where they can watch movies or play video games, a stage with a sound system and various instruments, board games, a foosball table, a pool table, a pingpong table, a snack bar and an area where teens can eat and study. There is also an overhead projector and a big screen set up for movie nights and a board for job postings.
Additionally, Gervase says the center will have theme nights on certain Fridays. This Friday is Karaoke Night from 5 to 8 p.m., where teens will be able to sing their favorite songs and enjoy a drink and two slices of pizza for $3.
“The kids who come to Karaoke Night will get to choose the next theme night,” Gervase said.
The opening day was very successful, according to Gervase, but the following week drew a smaller crowd.
“We’ve only been open one other day, and we only had about 10 kids here,” she said. “There was a lot of things going on that day, so that might have had something to do with it.”
Nonetheless, Gervase believes attendance will grow over time especially as word continues to spread about the center.
Gervase said more than 60 people signed up as volunteers at the center’s open house in January, and many of them are currently going through the background check process. However, Gervase says the center is still looking for more volunteers— especially teen volunteers ages 15 and up— and they can fill out an application online at KyleHyland.com.
Additionally, the center is also still seeking donations of items like electric guitars, video games, DVDs and a portable that can be used as a private space for counseling. A wishlist is also available online, although Gervase says it needs to be updated as the center has received some of the listed donations.
“There was a business called Therma-Flite out in the Arsenal, and they are downsizing and had a lot of things they were giving away,” she said. “We got printers from them and bookshelves and all kinds of things.”
The center is also still accepting financial donations through the crowdfunding site YouCaring.com as well as physical checks that can be mailed to The Kyle Hyland Foundation for Teen Support C/O Barbara Gervase, President, PO Box 1601; Benicia, CA 94510.
The Hyland Teen Center is located at 1035 Military West. It will be open from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday with Karaoke Night running from 5 to 8. Starting Monday, Feb. 8, it will be open from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit KyleHyland.com or contact the center at (707) 315-3065.