Brookline Teens Honored for Building, Literally, a Better Future for Their Peers
Teen Center workers recognized as "Unsung Heroes" for work over last five years.
The Brookline Teen Center may still be several big hurdles away from becoming a reality, but several dozen teenagers are already being heralded for their work moving the vision forward over the last five years.
"You just start to realize that these kids are doing something really special, and they're not doing it for themselves," said Richard Ward, executive director of the Brookline Community Foundation. "They're doing it for a whole future generation of young people, and that's pretty impressive."
The foundation recognized some 60 current and former Brookline High students who have contributed to the project at the annual Unsung Heroes Awards earlier this month. The five-year-old award is meant to showcase volunteers whose efforts to improve life in Brookline often go unnoticed and is awarded separately to adults and young people each year.
This year's youth recipients were by far the largest to date, with some former students coming in from out of state to accept the award alongside younger students.
"It was a nice kind of dynamic," said Paul Epstein, a Brookline High social worker who has led the project. "They were asking, 'What were you working on? What were you doing the first summer?'"
Over the last five years, Brookline teenagers have been involved in fundraising, planning, researching, design and outreach for the project, which organizers hope will culminate in a permanent recreational and academic center for Brookline teenagers. Each student involved in the project has been paid a small stipend, but Epstein said the compensation didn't match the expectations for the job.
"They just had a voracious appetite to soak up information, from the children's center we were visiting, or the architect we were talking to," he said. "There was this tremendous appetite for mastering the task at hand, for the simple reason that it would contribute to inching forward to the goal."
Epstein shared details about the proposed Teen Center with Brookline Patch last summer, but has not released the location of the facility being considered for the project because of ongoing lease negotiations. He said this month that those talk as still underway.
Epstein said he's hopeful that organizers can break ground on renovations at the site by next year.