As Evan Braff and Lloyd Tucker sat down for a meeting with Langley High School's Junior Optimist club, they immediately made one thing clear — they did not want to be in charge.
"The only way we're getting involved is if this is totally youth-run," said Braff, who is Division Supervisor for the Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services. "We're a lot older than you guys and we're out of touch with what you all like, so you need to tell us what you want."
Braff and Tucker, who is the Regional Coordinator for the Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services, met with the Langley Junior Optimist Club and members of the Great Falls Optimist Club to strategize for the first Great Falls Teen Center event, to be held at Forestville Elementary School on Sept. 22. The Junior Optimists first discussed the possibility of creating a monthly Great Falls Teen Center event last spring.
"Our focus is mainly on community service, so the teen center is going to be our big year-long project," said Tanvi Avasthi, 17, a junior and the vice president of the Junior Optimist Club.
JUST BEFORE CLASSES ENDED for the 2005-2006 school year, the Junior Optimists signed a charter agreement with the International Optimist Club, and began looking into a location for a regular teen center event.
"We originally wanted to do it at the Grange, but we found out that we couldn't because it's a historical site," said Avasthi.
The group finally got permission to use the Forestville Elementary School cafeteria. The cafeterial will be the site for all future Great Falls Teen Center events.
"There's a stage in there, there's a cafeteria for food, so it just had all of the things that we're looking for," said Great Falls Optimists member Linda Thompson, who is helping to coordinate the teen center project.
The goal of the Junior Optimists is to create a successful monthly teen center event that will provide a safe and fun social environment for high school and middle school students. The Great Falls Optimists donated seed money for the first party, and subsequent events will be funded through ticket sales.
"We just wanted to help them get started," said Thompson. "After that they're going to be charging at the events for people to come in... we're going to feel our way through this. If we have a really dynamic first event, they're going to have people climbing to get into their club."
The Sept. 22 event will potentially feature a DJ, food, a pool table and arcade games such as air hockey.
"For future events we'd like to have themed ideas," said Avasthi. "In October we could do something for Halloween, in November maybe Thanksgiving and in Feburary something relating to Valentine's Day."
The students are also discussing possible prize giveaways and a sign-up sheet for student bands that want to perform at future teen center events.
FOR NOW the Optimists are concentrating on using the next two weeks to get the word out and put together the best event possible. That is where the services of Braff and Tucker come in. At the strategy meeting, the two Fairfax County employees suggested that the Junior Optimists create a detailed task list and budget before this week's Wednesday meeting. Sign in procedures, adult volunteers, drop-off policies and money collection methods were just a few of the details that need to be nailed down in the next two weeks.
Braff also reminded the students, that although the Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services will handle security for the event, they still need to be aware of certain county policies, such as the requirement that students check their coats and the strict no re-entry policy.
"There are also certain policies about the way kids dance, and you guys know what I'm talking about," said Braff. "It's a non-negotiable policy, and you all know what's appropriate and what's not, so we expect you to do some self-policing."
The students plan to promote the party through fliers, text messages and through social networking Web sites such as Myspace.com and Facebook.com.
"It's a phenomenal idea," said Braff. "Use all the technology you can think of in regards to marketing."
The future of the teen center parties will depend on how the first event plays out.
"This is going to be whatever the kids want it to evolve into," said Thompson. "They had talked about having artwork exhibits and that sort of thing, but it's whatever they want it to be... there's no sense in doing it if they're not having fun."