June 21, 2005 > Teen Workshop for kids who like to work with their hands
Teen Workshop for kids who like to work with their hands
by Jeremy Inman
For over 30 years, the Union City Teen Workshop has been providing young people with safe, constructive and supervised after-school and summer activities. "It's a unique program," said Union City Leisure Services Recreation Supervisor Corina Hahn, "It attracts teens that like to work with their hands... It's a free, drop-in teen program that's open to anybody under the age of 18."
The workshop offers youth from the surrounding community the opportunity to work on their own bikes using workshop tools and facilities; however, the workshop is not limited to bike repair. Hahn said that "sometimes we do industrial arts, screen printing, woodworking, and gardening. Bike repair has been a continuous theme but a lot depends on what the kids are interested in and what the staff has knowledge of."
Senior Recreation Leader Eusebio Lozano, a staff member at the Teen Workshop for six years, gave a brief tour of the facility. The small, unimposing garage would be easy to overlook if not for the vibrant and intricate mural painted on the exterior of the building; a faŤade that Lozano explained was a community effort. He and fellow staff member of four years, Recreation Leader Jose Rodriguez, drew the outline of the design onto the outside of the building and helped teens from the community fill it in with paint.
Inside the two decorated garage doors is an open workshop floor that branches into a number of smaller work and storage rooms. One room housed bikes currently being worked on as well as tools and parts necessary for community teens to do their own maintenance. Adjacent to the main workshop floor is a small office with a number of event flyers, calendars, automotive and mechanical "how-to" books and a list of the rules of the workshop.
"It's a very community and neighborhood based program," noted Hahn, "A lot of the people who grew up in the Decoto neighborhood used to participate in this program. They send their kids here and now multiple generations have participated."
Union City Recreation Supervisor Larry Orozco was involved with the origination of the program 31 years ago when it was called the Union City Youth Program. In its early years several fulltime staff took responsibility for helping teens find employment in the community. According to Orozco, "They did anything from babysitting and housekeeping to helping people move and working at some of the local businesses and offices."
The program, initiated with a $5,000 grant from the city of Union City, subsisted on federal funds for a number of years until the city purchased the building - an old Mohawk Petroleum gas station. Teen Workshop is now run by Lozano and Rodriguez with Union City Leisure Services. The workshop and its surrounding lot with a community garden stands as a positive and colorful center for community activity and offers teens to a chance to work with their hands.
Though Teen Workshop targets youth ages 13 to 17, Lozano said it often attracts kids as young as seven. "We get kids who bring their brothers. Because it's a teen program, it's kind of hard to group little kids with teens because they like different things, but we don't really discriminate against younger ages."
During the school year, the workshop plays host to around 15 to 20 teens, but because the school year is wrapping up for most of them, the workshop will be closed until June 20. After that, its new summer hours will be from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
According to the workshop's summer schedule, they do more than bike repair, sign making, and gardening. At the workshop you can buy a new bike, donate your old one and learn how to build one from scratch. If you just need to get your bike fixed, you can drop it off and have it repaired for a fee of $10 plus the cost of any parts needed. If bikes aren't your thing, the schedule of events also lists swimming, movie showings, barbeques and trips to Great America and Water World. For more information regarding the Union City Teen Workshop, located at 33623 Mission Boulevard or its schedule of summer events, call the workshop at (510) 489-5348.
Union City Teen Workshop
33623 Mission Blvd., Union City