For the past year, Cameron Community Ministries has been immersed in a capital campaign to expand its services in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood. Right now, an after-school program only serves kindergarten through sixth grade students.

"As kids were aging out of the program there was a gap in our services for teens," said Jonathan Coyle, teen program director.

The new center is expected to open by month's end and will offer academic support, tutoring, computer labs, mentorships, recreational fun and even some green space.

Foodlink funded the peace garden to give students an opportunity to also learn more about nutrition.

"It's for us to get out there and plant stuff and be around nature," said Serena Chau, a graduate of Cameron Ministries.

The teen center project was led by a Youth Advisory Committee made up of teenagers who came up with the program goals and even hired the staff. Some of the committee members are graduates of the after-school program at Cameron Ministries.

"Since I went through the program myself, I've seen some very important aspects that need to be included in here, like say the more homey feel instead of a rec center, it gives more sense of community to all of the teenagers," said Kaila Toppin, another graduate.

Cameron Ministries believes the new teen center will provide the support and nurturing environment that students need to be successful through high school and beyond.

"I think that having something that was built by them, for them, kinda gives them ownership and makes them feel important and feel like they have a place to belong," said Coyle.