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Street Scene Teen Center celebrates 30 years

Three generations of Street Scene members came together Saturday to celebrate the organization’s 30-year anniversary at its location under the Franklin Street post office and court clerk building.

“That was the only place to go for us,” said Joshua Macri, a former Street Scene member. “There was a big group of us — most of us were pretty angry, and some of us weren’t in school.”

Macri is the lead guitarist for the punk-rock band The Dirty Politicians, which was founded at Street Scene 17 years ago, he said.

The relationships and guidance Macri found under the courthouse have stayed with him, he said.

“I’m glad this was here to ground us — it was an anchor for some of us,” Macri said.

Street Scene opened its doors in 1985 to offer a safe environment for area teenagers, said Robert Humphreys, president of the board of Street Teen Scene Center Inc.

Street Scene offers an after-school program and is open Friday and Saturday nights, he said.

“Chapel Hill is a college-oriented community,” Humphreys said. “Everything is geared toward the University, and teenagers have to take the backseat to college students. This is a place that they can call their own and be themselves — drug- and alcohol-free.”

The organization hosts various arts-centered events for teenagers, from poetry slams to dancing. Humphreys said attendance varies with the activity, but as many as 175 teenagers have come to events.

Wes Tilghman — special events supervisor for Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, which funds the center’s after-school program — said Street Scene has been a staple of the community for decades.

“It is an alternative for teenagers, and it gives them something other than hanging out on the streets,” he said.

Ricky Brown, a 16-year-old student at Chapel Hill High School, said he tries to come to the teen center as often as possible.

“You get to talk to someone who understands you, and this is a good place to calm down,” he said.

Uriah Shaw, a 16-year-old home-schooled student in Chapel Hill, said he was introduced to the center for summer camp but continues to visit for its dance classes.

“The dancing can help people branch out,” Shaw said. “It gives them something to do in a safe place.”

Carol Walborn has been with the program since 1992 when she was working in the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department. She said she eventually found herself working with the teen center every night.

“I love working with the kids here,” she said. “It is the only way to really stay young.”

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