Attention seventh and eighth-grade East Haven students and parents thereof: If you have not checked out the East Haven Teen Center, you are missing out.
Every other Friday night, for only three bucks admission, students can play unlimited video games, pingpong, pool and foosball while a DJ spins tunes, and pizza, snacks and drinks wait on a nearby table.
However, there is one other stipulation to admission into the facility – which is located next to HomeGoods on Frontage Road – and that is a ticket.
In order to gain an admittance ticket, students must exhibit good behavior during school hours. Teachers at Joseph Melillo Middle School, East Haven Academy and St. Vincent DePaul are the keepers of the tickets and place the chosen on a list to attend. At the facility, parents and volunteers sign in students at the door.
Bob Petrucelli, the town’s youth service coordinator, founded the center 10 years ago. The original location was at the East Haven Senior Center, where it quickly was outgrown because of its popularity, and was then moved to the old high school where East Haven Academy stood until last year, Petrucelli said.
"It has come a long way over 10 years and local businesses and merchants in the area didn't know the program existed until they were solicited for donations of goods or services,” said Al Camera, a commissioner on the town’s youth service division.
Although the majority of the financial backing comes from the town, individuals have also been key to the center’s success.
Such as Clem Laurello, who donated proceeds from his participation in the East Haven Fall Festival and materials for a security system at the facility. John Torniero has donated his time and all of the paint to enhance the center’s appearance. DJ Ralph Schlottman donates his time to spin tunes for the kids at a nominal cost.
Sal Luzzi, an East Haven parent and coach, is the center’s bouncer and doorman. He knows whose kid is whose, which parent drops them off and which parent picks them up. No child is allowed to leave until a parent or family member picks he or she up, unless previous arrangements have been made, ensuring that the kids are safe.
So far this year, there has been one open house for sixth-grade students and their parents to take in what the center has to offer. There will be another get-together for the sixth-grade kids before the end of the academic year, as well as an end-of-the-year cookout, which is already in the planning stage. Summer programs are also in the works.
There is an ongoing project to paint the walls with murals from sketches and drawings of some of Al Camera’s art students. These sketches are turned into transparencies and projected on the walls for the kids to trace out and paint.
“We have so many kids that are talented artists whose little sketches get turned into works of art on the walls here,” said Camera. “The best part is that the kids get to express themselves and see the results permanently painted on these walls"