Our Greatest Person feature highlights individuals who are making a difference in our community. This month, Patch honors Councilman Bill Thrash for his work with the Teen Center. To nominate our next Greatest Person, e-mail our editor at email@example.com.
Kennesaw Councilman is a man with a mission—to offer a place for at-risk Kennesaw teens that's safe, secure and encouraging.
The opened in February 2011 and was a collective effort between city officials, staff, businesses, and Youth Council members.
“The dream started out as a spark with the ," said Thrash on opening day. "They worked to make everything happen. It didn’t happen because of me. I just talked about it, and people got excited."
The center is being temporarily housed at 2775 South Main St. in what was the vacant Kennesaw Hardware building, now owned by the city. The sponsored a year’s lease at no cost.
The Center will move next door to 2765 South Main Street in downtown Kennesaw in the next few weeks and share space with , said Thrash, who is on another mission—to beat cancer. The disease has slowed him through chemo treatments and recovery time, but his dedication to the center hasn't wavered.
"These kids are from families where the parents don't get home until 7 p.m. and they need somewhere to go to provide safety and structure," said Thrash. Adults from the faith and business communities offer tutoring and mentoring opportunities to students.
Pastor Dallas White from City Church in downtown Kennesaw has been visiting the Teen Center weekly to hang out with the teens.
"We have a heart for the downtown area, so the Teen Center is a natural connection for us," said White, who has become friends with Thrash and helped paint the center and plays basketball with the students. "They have no place to be themselves, and this gives them a place to do that and pursue their dreams."
In addition to study areas and computer labs on the center's second floor, the first floor recreational area has space for teens to relax and engage in activities like art, gaming, karaoke, and talent shows. The center is staffed by Miranda Jones, who keeps up with the students and volunteers. "But it's really Mr. Thrash who makes it all work. He loves this place," said Jones.
The program operates after school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Participating teens sign a contract between themselves, their parents and their teachers agreeing to abide by the terms and expectations of the program, such as completing homework.
students Shalexia Johnson and LaShea Popehn said they love the facility because they can come after school, do homework and meet new friends. The students also get three snacks and drinks during their hours at the Teen Center.
The Kennesaw Dream Foundation is the non-profit organization which funds the Teen Center, and they are sponsoring a fundraiser called the 5k "Dream Dash" on June 16 and still need runners, volunteers and sponsors.
For more information or to volunteer at the Kennesaw Teen Center, contact Bill Thrash at firstname.lastname@example.org.