MILTON — Throughout the past 75 years, a program for teenagers has been a vital part of the Milton community. As times have changed, Milton’s teen program has continued to evolve to keep pace with the interests of teenagers from each generation.
The latest evolution of the program is currently underway in a space located in the basement of the Milton Moose Family Center which was once known as The Jungle Teen Center.
George Venios, executive director of The Improved Milton Experience (TIME), said the teen center is undergoing extensive renovations and will soon be known as the Milton MakerSpace.
Milton’s teen program falls under the auspices of TIME. Venios noted this year marks the 75th anniversary of a teen program being active in the Milton community. Plans to mark the anniversary will be announced in the near future.
“The teen program was at the YMCA,” Venios explained. “They ran out of space.”
When that happened, the Milton Moose Family Center offered the area of its basement which was once used as a six-lane bowling alley to become the new home of the teen program.
“Back in 2005, we had a group of teens gut the bowling alley,” Venios said, noting that the space became known as The Jungle Teen Center.
The latest evolution of the program started last year, when Venios said representatives of the Degenstein Foundation toured the Miltonian building, which is owned by TIME and located near the Milton Moose Family Center.
Representatives toured the site as TIME requested and subsequently awarded a $50,000 grant to complete some renovations to the Miltonian. That work included the creation of a park outside of the building and some other upgrades to the building itself.
While touring the Miltonian, Venios said the Degenstein Foundation representatives were interested in all of TIME’s programming and asked to have an up-close look at other facets of the organization.
“They challenged us to do bigger and better things in keeping with the United Way’s goal… to have every teen and young adult employed or in school,” Venios said.
He noted that the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way has been a supporter of Milton’s teen program.
“Our TIME For Teens program is pretty well premiere in their eyes,” Venios said. “They look for us to be an example throughout Pennsylvania on how to run a teen program.”
While challenging the program to do bigger things in keeping with United Way’s goals, Venios said the Degenstein Foundation encouraged TIME to also apply for a grant to renovate The Jungle Teen Center.
“They gave us $10,000,” Venios said, of the foundation. “That was a starter, to start changing the teen center into the Milton MakerSpace.”
While a new furnace was installed by a contractor, Venios said much of the renovations to the center are being carried out by students enrolled in the Milton Area High School’s Building Trades curriculum, as well as community volunteers.
“We’re pretty much gutting the center and starting over,” Venios said, noting that the work includes replacing the ceiling, lighting and walls of the facility.
The work started in September. The Milton MakerSpace should be ready for use beginning this fall.
The area will include a recording studio, an arts and graphic design area, an industrial arts center, a technology lab and a hydroponic garden. Equipment such as video screens, 3D printers, computers, a laser cutting and rill press will be added to the center.
“A lot of activities the kids enjoyed at the teen center, they will still have that,” Venios said. “Now, they will have opportunities for learning, fun learning.”
While the name of the space is changing, a portion of the renovated facility will pay homage to the teen program’s rich past.
“They will have The Jungle Cafe,” Venios said. “That’s the area (of the center) where they can get drinks and snacks.”
Nick Digan, an electrician from Milton who was involved with Milton’s teen program in his younger years, is among the community volunteers helping with renovations to the center.
He is volunteering several hours per week to help with electrical wiring and installing new lights in the center.
“I’m just glad to be able to help out here,” Digan said.
Venios expressed thanks to Digan for his effort, as well as the Milton Area High School’s Building Trades program. An average of four students enrolled in the program have been doing the bulk of the renovations to the space. The students are typically there working three times per week.
“Our motto on this whole center is ‘by teens for teens,’” Venios said.
He said TIME will be partnering with other entities to help complete the Milton MakerSpace. Announcements on those partnerships will be made in the near future.
TIME also hopes to make other enhancements to the Milton Moose Family Center. The organization operates Chef’s Place Boiardi Museum and Eatery on the second floor of the Moose and the Milton Model Train Museum on the third floor.
“We have a goal to install an elevator in the building by the end of the year,” Venios said. “I have some of the funding in place. We are going to be announcing some major fundraising.”