GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Teenagers are taking the lead by creating a new safe space to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble. An alliance of Gulfport churches called "Kingdom New Generation Leaders" is preparing to open a teen center on Highway 49 and O'Neal Road.
While most people see a vacant building, this group of Gulfport teens have a vision for what it may become. They don't mind putting in the hard work to create a safe and positive environment for teens to hang out.
"To get kids off the street. To get kids more involved into better things," said 16-year-old Xaveryana Hutcherson when we asked her how this project may benefit her community.
"There's nothing really in Gulfport, Mississippi for the teens to do around here except for getting in trouble and doing bad things," said Ciarra Robinson.
Teens are involved in every facet of Dream Teen Center, from designing the color scheme and layout during the renovation, to overseeing the planning and scheduling for events once it opens. Just as they suggested, there will a restaurant, a game room, dances, and tutoring available once this project is complete.
"Why not have teens do it since it's going to be for the teens? Have the teens design it and do all the hard work. That way when other teens come they can really appreciate it and like it because it's for the teens by the teens," said 17-year-old Xaynna Hutcherson.
Advisor Carmen Jordan said, "It's important to have their perspectives. I think from working with the youth and getting to know them a little bit better, I think one of the things they've expressed most is that they don't have a voice. So I think it's important to give them that voice so they can feel apart of something."
The teens said they named the Dream Teen Center after a very famous dream in American history.
"It's really based off the Martin Luther King speech where he was talking about bringing different cultures and people together. Well that's what we're looking to do at the Dream Teen Center," said Robinson.
"When we think of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' he talks about all things he wanted to see come together," said Jordan. "We are living the dream at this point. When they come into the building later on and they see this is their work, it's not just 'let me check out the new place'. This is our place. This is our environment. They're living the dream, and it's exciting to see that."
The plan is to hold the first dance in December. The target group includes students between seventh and twelfth grade.
Xaveryana Hutcherson said, "I'm ready to start it. I'm ready to see different kids come together in a good way. I'm ready to get on board."
In order to help parents feel more comfortable about leaving their children, Kingdom New Generation Leaders said they will also have an area for mothers to hang out. It will be a spa type setting where mom can get a manicure while her kids are in the teen center having fun.