Enzo Islas, a 15-year-old freshman at Boca Raton Community High School, said he enjoys the chess and film clubs at THE LAB, the new interactive space for middle and high school students presented by the YMCA of South Palm Beach County at the Town Center at Boca Raton mall.
“[I like] the sense of community. It’s very welcoming. You get to meet other people,” said Islas, who goes to THE LAB two to three days a week.
THE LAB opened a few months ago with the goal of helping teens come full circle, realize who they are and what they are capable of achieving, while making new friends along the way, according to Bryan Hunt, executive director of the Peter Blum Family YMCA, which oversees THE LAB.
THE LAB offers year-round leadership development programming for youth ages 12 to 17, which currently includes an e-gaming center, leaders club, youth and government, technology club, art and fashion programs, an acting school and film academy, yoga as well as a summer camp and camp for teens when they are are out of school, Hunt said.
THE LAB also focuses on civic engagement, college and career readiness and workforce development, according to the YMCA.
Islas, who enjoys film as a hobby, said his father saw the flyer online about the film academy and he decided to join. The film academy introduces teens to the fundamentals of film production including acting and social media, according to The YMCA.
“It’s a growing facility, and it’s really focused on developing the teen population and working to achieve what the teens’ needs are,” Hunt said.
Sydney Wells, of Boca Raton, who’s 14 and in eighth grade at Eagles Landing Middle School, has also been going to THE LAB two to three days a week. She decided to join because she wanted “a new, fresh environment and it seemed like such a great place to be,” she said.
“I was looking at their website and it really spiked my interest and I decided to check it out,” Wells said.
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So far, she has helped with a few different volunteer events and attends weekly meetings for the leaders club and youth and government, she said.
“In leadership, we try to work on finding ourselves with a deeper meaning and how we can make better changes in the world and be better people. With youth and government, we talk about the changes we want to see in the world and we’re doing research on different topics and how to build it into law,” Wells said.
This summer, she will be a camp counselor in their summer camp program and may join the fashion academy as well, she said.
“Teens should get involved because you’ll meet so many new people who are just amazing and see how different people interact with each other and walking in, there’s such a good vibe and such a fun place to be,” she said.
THE LAB in Town Center at Boca Raton, 6000 Glades Road, Suite 1370 A, is open from 3 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.