Among several new initiatives introduced this year, Trackside Teen Center has created “Late Night @ Trackside,” a program created, planned, and run by Trackside high school leaders.

Select Friday nights each month from 8-11 p.m., Trackside transforms into a salon-like setting for high school students only.

The idea came as a result of a roundtable discussion between two high school leaders, Henry Purcell and Thomas Fletcher, and Trackside staff. The teens saw a need for their peers to have a safe place to unwind, relax and express themselves without having their parents around. They noticed that their fellow students were overwhelmed; many were going through tough times and needed a place to just be themselves.

“We’re always in conversation with our high school students, both formally and informally around what types of activities, and experiences they need most,” Trackside Executive Director Lori Fields said. “As a team, we’re always asking, Where’s the gap and what’s our distinct way of meeting that need? Including our students and leaders in our think-tank conversations is something that happens regularly. They know, much better than we, what they want and need.”

At Late Night, students are free to use the space as they like. There’s a wide range of activities ranging from live music (The Wandas, a high school band has played twice), chess, pool, ping pong, shuffleboard, karaoke, open mic, and more. Students are encouraged to work on personal projects and the cafe is open, serving coffee, ramen, chips, and a variety of other food and beverage options. Point Break Tacos was the first food sponsor, offering up delicious tacos for participants.

For the Trackside team envisioning the setting for these evenings, it was important that the environment have a lounge-type feel with comfortable couches and cozy seating areas. The setting has a completely different look and feel from after-school programming for middle school students and as a result, has brought many new teens into the Trackside facility.

Although organized and run by high school students, there is always a staff member or adult from the community onsite overseeing the evening.

“Late Night is an evening where you can see friends, decompress, and leave your issues at the door. Interestingly, some teens openly share their issues with their peers, feeling this is a relaxed and safe place to do so,” Fletcher said.

Fields is thrilled about this new Trackside offering.

“Witnessing this idea come to life and seeing the impact it’s already had on our teens has been incredibly rewarding. This type of experience is at the heart of what our mission is all about. What looks like just a fun night out is something much deeper and profound,” she said.

The final Late Night of this academic year is this Friday, May 12 from 8-11 p.m. This special evening will feature live music from the Paul Green Rock Academy, a special appearance by Here For You Clothing, and a unique opportunity for attendees to express themselves with Justin Baiad Photography. No registration is required and entry is free.

Organizers noted that donations and contributions are important to help offset the operational, food and staffing costs for this new initiative. Sponsorship would allow Trackside to continue offering these enriching evenings to students for free when the intiative restarts at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. Interested parties can contact trackside via email.