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McHenry Planning and Zoning OKs rezone for new teen center

Alderman Chad Mihevc wants to open Ignite Teen Center by early winter

Economic Development Director Doug Martin (center) speaks about a proposed teen center during a McHenry Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday.
Economic Development Director Doug Martin (center) speaks about a proposed teen center during a McHenry Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday.

McHENRY – A McHenry alderman is proposing a teen center for a vacant property on Crystal Lake Road and Main Street near McHenry district schools.

Chad and Jennifer Mihevc want to open Ignite Teen Center at 4105 W. Crystal Lake St. in McHenry to offer teens a place to go to get positive support, fun activities and a chance to contribute to their community in a safe, supervised atmosphere. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a rezoning for the plan Wednesday.

Haley Ullett, 15, said that she saw a need for the center and that many of her fellow McHenry East High School students would benefit.

“I know there are a lot of students at East that need this place for peer support or just somewhere to meet new people or hang out with friends that isn’t at the school but is a safe and supportive environment,” she said. “It will be great for people in middle school or eighth grade going into high school, so that way they’re not just going in blindly. They will know people from high school from this center.”

Teens and their parents came to the meeting to voice support for the proposal, which the Mihevcs hope to have up and running by November or December. The McHenry City Council will consider the plan at its 7 p.m. Oct. 16 meeting at the McHenry Municipal Center, 333 Green St., McHenry.

The two-story, 4,880-square-foot building is centrally located, less than a mile from both McHenry High School campuses and close to a bike path and park. Programming will be free and open to students in sixth through 12th grades.

Kyla Henige, 14, said that for her, the benefit would be the ability to connect with students of all ages and learn how to collaborate with diverse age groups and new people.

“It’s going to be good to learn those life lessons we need to know,” she said. “And to get to work with kids younger and older will help us get that experience, so when it comes to school time or outside school, you really have that real true experience of working with other kids.”

The center will operate on a nonprofit, volunteer-run basis and will include an on-site, student-run used bookstore. The profits from the 700-square-foot retail portion of the space will go back to operating costs, Mihevc said. Ignite Teen Center will offer academic, life and interest, health and wellness, and social and service project opportunities and programming. Hours are planned from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday with select evening and weekend courses, according to planning documents.

McHenry School District 156 parent and former teacher Barb Sharpe said that she has seen how mentorships can influence teens’ lives.

“I have seen a lot of kids that need mentors in their life,” she said. “For me, when I see that kids have a parent or a mentor, someone that really cares, it makes a difference in their life. It changes how they are in school and in their personal life. … I think it’s a needed thing these days.”

Fellow District 156 parent Sue Kaspar said that she wanted a place where her teenager could spend time with people who have similar values and escape negative pressure.

“Even if they aren’t mentoring each other necessarily, it gives them a place where they have relatively the same values,” she said. “It gives them a safe zone where it is OK to be who they are and not fall into all those stressors and peer pressure-type draws.”

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