The Isla Vista Teen Center, which lost nearly all its funding from UCSB this year, will continue to keep its doors open, but its struggle for funding is ongoing.
The center raised $190,000 through subsidies from Santa Barbara County and a one-year grant from the County Work Force Investment Act. However, the grant must be renewed every year, and $190,000 is not enough to keep the center open every Friday and Saturday night, times when the center is a valued alternative to the Isla Vista party scene.
“If we were open every Friday and Saturday night we would drastically reduce the number of kids at risk,” said Mike Folley, director of the center. “The fact that we can’t provide that service keeps me up at night, because as soon as an adult porn ring begins, youth porn follows. It’s only a matter of time before there is youth prostitution.”
Currently, the center tries to have two Friday night dances per month. At the dances, admission is free; however, the teens must complete a survey. The survey given at this past Friday’s dance had questions ranging from “Do you have health insurance?” to “Have you ever used drugs?” The dances go until 11 p.m., but Folley said he wishes he could wave a magic wand and keep the center open until 2 a.m., when most of the parties have died down.
Another setback the center faces is that, due to federal regulations, the center’s work force investment program is only available to documented citizens. The program aims to teach teens skills necessary for today’s job market and even helps them find jobs in the local community. Folley said over 50 teens wanted to participate but could not because of the need for documentation. Folley said the only way to involve undocumented kids is to receive private donations.
“If only half the students at UCSB gave just $25 over the course of the year, that would be more than enough to fund all of our programs,” he said.
UCSB, whose students helped to found the teen center, was able to donate $6,000 this year, with further funding cuts expected. Dean of Students Yonie Harris said the lack of funding was a budget necessity and “does not indicate a lack of support for the teen center.” UCSB continued to fund the center even after the grant had expired.
The teen center raised the rest of its funding this year from public and private donations, and subsidies from the Santa Barbara County Dept. of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health. Other donors included the Gilk Barg Foundation and the I.V. Recreation and Park District. Also, groups on campus raised over $10,000.
“I do my homework at the teen center because it’s more open,” said Jorge Zamora, a student at Dos Pueblos High School who moved here from Mexico 2 1/2 years ago. “And, unlike my house, no one interrupts me here.”
Anyone interested in donating time or money to the teen center can call the center at 685-9170.