COSTA MESA — City and school officials unveiled a new teen center Monday at Costa Mesa Middle School.
About two dozen middle-school students gathered for the grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting, which took place after school let out for the day.
As soon as the center opened, middle school students made themselves at home playing board games, table sports, musical instruments and making arts and crafts.
"It seems like a lot of fun," said seventh-grader Kate Piatti, 12. "Everyone's having a good time."
The center will be open from 2:50 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday for seventh- or eighth-grade students from any school in the district who want a place to get homework help, hang out with friends and play games.
Students with working parents now have a safe place to do recreational activities that will strengthen their social skills and character development, said Costa Mesa Middle School Principal Aaron Peralta.
Many students have too much unsupervised free time after school, which can lead to trouble, said District Trustee Karen Yelsey.
"We've found it's never good for kids to have totally free time," she said. "We feel it's important to have kids engaged."
Michelle Pommier said she and her husband are home after school for their 13-year-old seventh-grade daughter, but they won't always be, so it's good to know there are safe alternatives.
"I think it's great for the community for [teens] to have a place to go so they're not wondering around the streets getting into trouble," she said.
The center came to fruition through a partnership with the city of Costa Mesa and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
The city and TR Co., the developer behind The Grove at Mesa Del Mar luxury housing complex, made matching $10,000 donations for the project. The Costa Mesa High School Foundation also donated $5,000.
All of the activities inside the center were donated, and the center still needs more donated computer equipment, said District Trustee Katrina Foley, who voted to support the teen center while on the Costa Mesa City Council.
They also need donations of digital cameras, board games, game tables, video-game consoles, video games and sporting equipment.
Foley wants to create a media center for students to make websites, practice graphic design and make documentaries.
Anyone interested in helping can contact Asst. Recreation Supervisor Robby Waite at (714) 754-5302.