WELLSBORO — The teen center here is quiet and has been quiet for the past few weeks. Carl Linscott, who manages the community, faith-based organization, continues to reach out to help area youth.
The center includes games — pool, air hockey and board games, a kitchen and hot drink area labeled “He brews,” a computer room and small tables for studying, snacking or eating.
Linscott arrives around 10 a.m. on days when he’s not called to substitute teach. Helping youth is a personal mission.
“I have been where they are and I want to help them avoid the same mistakes I made and get their act together,” he said.
He grew up in a disadvantaged home until age 10, when he went to live with his grandmother. However, Linscott said he dropped out of college and “shipwrecked” his life before having “an experience with God that I had not had before.” He decided then to do something to help other young people avoid those same mistakes.
He worked for 10-plus years as a youth pastor in West Virginia, Missouri and Pittsburg before landing in Wellsboro in 1999 where he met Herb Ley, who had a vision for a teen center but didn’t know how to attract kids to the program. Linscott had that knowledge.
Ley was renting space formerly used as a roller skating rink above the Pearl Street Shops. It could be used, Linscott thought, as a teen center.
Between March and October, Linscott worked on forging connections with high school and middle school students in school and at his church. Two groups came out of his efforts. The first group included children of parishioners; the second group was made up of at-risk youth.
In October, he decided to bring both groups together for a community church service. More than 70 kids attended.
“It showed me there was a need for something to do for them,” said Linscott.
An afterschool program began above the Pearl Street Shops in April 2000, but went on hiatus when noise from the wooden floor intruded on the businesses below. It was still used for evening and weekend activities.
In 2004, Linscott’s church had the opportunity to acquire a former dry cleaner’s building on Brewery Lane. For the next three years, volunteers and students from the school shop class remodeled the building. The two youth groups continued to meet at Pearl Street. In 2008, the building was ready and the board decided to shift focus from high school age to middle school.
“We found that they have fewer issues and there’s more chance to change behaviors,” he said. “We want to get to them and say, ‘There is a better way to live your life.’”
Students arrive shortly after school lets out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. They usually get a snack, and sit at a table or a computer to complete their homework. Tutors are available. At 4 p.m., they have group time where a community leader will speak and a Bible lesson is presented.
“We want them to put God in their life and get them thinking about their life and the choices they want to make,” he said.
On Monday and Thursday, the program ends at 5. On Tuesday, a second group time is held at 5:30 p.m., and supper is served at 6. Linscott said the program could open additional days with more volunteers. High school students serve as junior leaders.
“We want them to be an example, to model the behavior for the middle schoolers and be responsible,” Linscott said.
Ley left the area in 2011. Linscott, along with his volunteers and board of directors, continue to serve youth and seek ways to expand the program. He is currently applying for grants to pave an outdoor recreation area and eventually expand the building.
Success is due to those volunteers and support from the community.
“I trust in God and I trust Him to help us and bring people we need,” he said.