Teens strive to open center for peers


May 24, 2002|By Lesa Jansen | Lesa Jansen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A GROUP OF motivated South Carroll teens is determined to establish a safe, fun refuge for youth while honoring the memory of a friend.

Amanda Ingersoll died from complications after a car crash in December. She was 16.

The South Carroll High School junior was very active in her church youth group at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mount Airy.

Now, fellow members of the youth group and South Carroll High School students are working to open the Amanda Center.

"When she died, it took a huge chunk out of our community," said Mike de la Cruz, president of the Amanda Center youth governing board. "By opening this center, we hope to give back by creating a positive atmosphere where teens can develop their self-esteem."

Its members also believe the center will offer youths an alternative to drugs. They believe many youths turn to drugs out of boredom.

"We want the Amanda Center to be a comfortable, entertaining, interactive and safe `hang-out' for kids after school and also on weekend nights," said Abby Treworgy, a youth board member.

The teens approached St. Paul's Episcopal Church about using a church-owned house adjacent to its property at 16457 Old Frederick Road in Mount Airy as the site for the Amanda Center.

"I thought it was a fabulous idea for a parish dedicated to children, youth and young adults," said the Rev. John Wilbur, St. Paul's rector. "I feel we need to be responsible, that we need to be there for them, to be a positive influence for" youth.

The church has run into problems, however, with its neighbors.

"Some neighbors want to see this stopped because they're afraid of drug traffic or the lowering of property values," Wilbur said. "They say it's a good idea, but not in my back yard. But I feel to establish anything of value you always have to leap over some obstacles."

While the issue with the neighbors is being resolved at the county level, the Amanda Center youth board continues to apply for grants and seek donations from family and friends, hoping that work on the house can begin once zoning issues are settled.

A local band, Infuseon, has stepped forward to help. The alternative rock band made up of students from South Carroll High plans a benefit concert next weekend at the high school to honor fellow students who have died in recent years. All proceeds will benefit the Amanda Center.

"We do a benefit concert once a year and this is such a good cause," said lead vocalist Mike Kane. "We hope to be able to help buy a pool table, stereo, black lights to make the Amanda Center a cool place where teens would want to be."

The teens trying to open the Amanda Center say they realize delays might mean the center would not be open for them to use while they are in high school.

"We always say, `We aren't driving this train, this train is being driven from above,'" said de la Cruz. "We're really trying to help the generation below us, the middle-schoolers who will be entering high school. We want to make a difference to stop drugs and drinking among teens."

The Infuseon benefit concert will be held at 7 p.m. May 31 at South Carroll High School. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door.

Information: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 410-489-4411.

Relay for Life

Despite cold, steady rains May 17, participants in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in Carroll County raised more than $320,000.

Sixteen hundred people, including a team from Mount Airy Middle School, participated in the sixth annual event held at Westminster High School. Relays for Life are held around the country to raise awareness of the disease and raise money for cancer research.

A tradition at relays held around the country is the "survivor's lap." This year in Carroll County more than 250 people participated.

"I just can't describe how much hope just seeing these survivors running the lap gives to someone who is newly diagnosed," said Gina Adolph, a communications specialist with the American Cancer Society who is a cancer survivor. "It is incredibly inspiring to those who still have the fight ahead of them to see survivors doing that lap."

Lesa Jansen's Southwest neighborhood column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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