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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cheney Hangout

The Spokesman-Review

Perhaps a second definition needs to be added to the word ” ‘tweens.” ‘Tweens: 1.) Boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 13. 2.) Those young people who don’t have anything to do after school or on weekends. The Eastern Washington University Department of Sociology children’s studies program has stepped in with a solution for Cheney ‘tweens. It opened a ‘tween center in the lobby of Brewster Hall, 402 Second St.

What once was underutilized space has become some Cheney kids’ favorite spot to play air hockey, watch videos, put together jigsaw puzzles and make new friends.

Although there are community centers that cater to ‘tweens throughout Spokane County, Cheney’s biggest outlet for ‘tweens is the community outdoor swimming pool. The closest mall, after all, is in downtown Spokane.

“What’s different about this, is the amount of voices they have,” said Sue Wright, EWU associate professor.

Their opinions were taken seriously from the start, as students were given the chance to choose a name for their spot.

Cheney Hangout was picked over various suggestions such as Teen Storage, ‘Tween Time, Hang Time and Cheney’s Best Center.

The idea for a hangout emerged about a year ago in Wright’s children’s studies class. There are about 800 to 900 ‘tweens in Cheney who have limited places to go and limited transportation to get there.

An initial survey conducted by the class showed “tweens would support a hangout. A university steering committee suggested it be set up in the Brewster Hall lobby, which is between Kafka Coffee and The Eagle Outpost bookstore.

The hangout’s opening-night party on April 24 attracted 24 kids.

Six weeks later, about 20 kids attended the end-of-the-school-year party. Many of them watched the first “Star Wars” movie of 1977, a timely choice since “Star Wars: Episode II – Revenge of the Sith” opened shortly after.

“I used to pretty much sit at home and watch TV,” said 13-year-old Aaron Gulling, a seventh-grader at Cheney Middle School and center regular.

During the school year, the hangout was open 17 hours a week. Now that both the Eastern children studies student volunteers and middle school students are off for summer, the hours have been scaled back to noon until 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The new hours began Monday.

Steve Bertram, assistant director of residential life, said the residents of Brewster Hall have not been inconvenienced by the ‘tweens. Some even hang out with the youngsters when they pass through the lobby.

“It’s more homey now,” said Bertram, standing in the residence hall lobby that is decorated with children’s artwork and poster.

Cheney merchants donated books, art supplies and games. The furniture is surplus from the college.

Marilyn Nelson, Cheney Hangout coordinator, said the next step is to adjust the hours, making it better for the clients. She also is working on getting grant money that would go toward transportation and snacks.

“The issue is expanding from 15 to 20 kids to twice as many as that,” Wright said. “Many would be interested in using it if they had transportation.”

Wright also said the college is working with the city regarding grant money and a place for a bigger center.

A recent survey showed the majority of the ‘tweens would like the center to be open from 4 to 7 p.m. The most popular day listed was Saturday.

For the first six weeks, the center was closed at 6 p.m on all weekdays except Wednesdays.

“I think it’s great,” Aaron’s mother, Carla Gulling, said of the new center. “The only (other) thing kids can do is bowl, and you can only bowl so much.”

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