Y opens teen space in Boca mall

Remember when moms dropped kids off at the mall to meet their friends? Those days are back in Boca in a YMCA way to encourage teens to have fun and learn social and civic responsibility at the same time.

The Lab: YMCA Leadership Academy is having a soft opening in their new space in The Terrace section, said Jason Hagensick, president and CEO of the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.

Hours will be 3 to 8 p.m. so far. The target age is 12 to 17.

“We want to give them a safe place to gather and socialize. The Lab will be there for advocacy and civic engagement. We want every child to have a YMCA story,” he said.

What teens will find is activities like computers for eGaming and a film academy. “That’s important for this demographic. How best to meet kids where they are and the activities they’re already doing. What can we do to create something cutting edge and out of the box,” he added.

Where the YMCA comes in is providing programming that helps teens understand how government works and promotes a culture of helping others, Hagensick added.

Togetherhood is about volunteer projects. “We’re revamping our Y bikes on how to enjoy bicycling safely,” he said.

As The Lab ramps up, the Y is accepting “naming opportunities for specific rooms and the Y programs,” he said. Potential sponsors can go to or call him 561-395-9622.

Among sponsors for the new teen space so far are Baptist Health South Florida/Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Truist Investment Services and a partnership with Town Center at Boca Raton mall.

“Town Center at Boca Raton has served as a community gathering place for over 40 years, dedicated to providing locals with a family friendly destination to gather and create lasting memories. The partnership with the YMCA of South Palm Beach County is a natural extension of that mission,” mall general manager Sal Saldana said in a statement. “Creating an innovative space where local tweens and teens can work together on fun, interactive projects while developing skills for the future.”

By Marci Shatzman


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