Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teen Center makes summer learning possible, even fun


By Dashiell Young-Saver
Located near two teenage hot spots—the library and the senior center—the Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Teen Center is not always thought of as a “go-to place” by local teens.
It’s better known for hosting dances that expose middle schoolers to excessive amounts of black light and bands with confusing names like Koala Spit Shoe. However, its recently opened summer programs succeed in the difficult task of appealing to teenagers.
During their time away from school, Conejo Valley teens can’t really think of anything to do besides pick their noses and then post a Facebook status about it. Although this behavior can be gratifying, the Teen Center provides much more productive alternatives.
Its classes and programs are interesting, fun and, more important, casual—the perfect contrast to the regular classroom environment.

One summer I took a cooking class with a friend. On the first day we made a skirt steak grilled to perfection, bursting with flavor, covered in a lemon sauce that added to and did not overshadow the meat. The outside was crispy, yet the inside was tender enough to melt in one’s mouth. So basically, it wasn’t terrible.
At my house when I ask for a hot meal I get popcorn. After eating this dish, I became a steak eater for life. The class opened up a whole new world to my palette.
Another great program at the Teen Center is the summer basketball league. The league is not for superathletes but for those who lie on the sofa watching SportsCenter all day, viewing the same clips over and over and listening to sports announcers saying the same things.
The league was actually pretty competitive. Every game was an all-out battle between semi-athletic teams, and every game was enjoyable and close.
Actually, almost every game was close. There was one team of graduating seniors from the varsity team of one of the local high schools.
I’m pretty sure they all had basketball scholarships to Division I schools—that is, if they decided not to go straight to the NBA draft. We lost to them by a score of more than 9,000 to negative 5 (the negative comes from the loss of pride points)—at least it felt that way.
Most teenagers are not culinary geniuses or basketball stars, but the Teen Center lets them enjoy activities they wouldn’t consider during the school year, when they’re too busy with tests, labs and worrying about college.
The easygoing atmosphere is a nice break from the competitive classroom environment and might just spark an interest you never knew you had—look at me and steak.
A break from the classroom? Sounds a lot like summer.
The easiest way to learn more about the Teen Center summer programs and to register is by visiting the website, You can also call (805) 494-5156 or email
Dashiell Young-Saver is an incoming senior at Westlake High School. He was the managing editor of the school newspaper, The Arrow, last year. During the summer, he’ll contribute columns to the Acorn from the perspective of a teenager growing up in the Conejo Valley.


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