Teen-agers tell city they want place to chill’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Mayor Laurence Leyens, left, speaks to youths Tuesday at the Vicksburg Senior Center. Seated, from left, are St. Aloysius High School students Myra Blake, sophomore, Jeremy White, 8th grade, and Peter Zelasko, junior.(The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[05/08/02]Teens told city officials Tuesday that they just want a place to “chill out.”

Vicksburg officials called the meeting with area high school students to find out what the city can do to give teens a place to go other than grocery store parking lots or the mall. About 36 teens, parents and city employees attended the session in the senior center.

“A lot of teen-agers don’t want to go someplace that’s organized. They just want to go someplace and chill out,” said Kimberly Cote, 16, of Warren Central High School.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said the city is looking at plans to put in a stage for bands and installing bathrooms at City Park. He said the project could be done for about $50,000. Past efforts to have organized events at the City Park pavilion have had limited success.

On many weekends, teens gather at the parking lot at SuperValu on Indiana Avenue or basketball courts at Mission 66 and Sky Farm Avenue. Police routinely drive through those areas on Friday and Saturday nights to clear out the crowds.

“Right now the police are just scattering the kids and they’re out driving around and that’s creating more problems,” Leyens said.

Teens were also asked how to get different races to participate in the same activities. Leyens pointed to a private, whites-only dance organized for Warren Central students.

“Racial division, different groups in different areas, is there any way to overcome that?” he asked.

Alda Shepherd, a 17-year-old student at Warren Central High School, suggested a teen center in a part of town where blacks and whites go.

“It doesn’t need to be in Kings, but a neutral area,” Shepherd said.

The teens said the type of music played by bands at City Park could also be a problem for inclusion, but most said they did not mind having security at the park.

“If you give us a place to go to hang out I don’t mind having a police officer there,” said Peter Zelasko, 16, of St. Aloysius.

City officials agreed to act, but said they wanted guidance.

“If you don’t tell us what you want, then we’re going to tell you what we think you want, because we don’t know,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

City officials are setting up an e-mail address for suggestions from the public and encourage teens to send in their ideas.