Jul 132017

Alex’s Place:

Teen Space Brings Much Needed Teenage Outlet

Chaiel Schaffel

Between ages thirteen to eighteen, there is a yawning gap in things to do almost anywhere. For ages two to eleven or twelve, there are plenty of activities. At twenty-one and older, the night scene takes over. But teenhood is an inconvenient time, and with that inconvenience comes boredom. Most of the time, the archetype of a sullen teenager is not fueled by pop culture or a zombie-like attachment to electronics, like many in the older generation would believe. Symbolic of adolescence, the attitude is propelled by not having a role, a place to fit in like other ages do.

Cue Alex’s Place, a monumental and inventive free space for teenagers. The Place is a place like no other, where teenagers are genuinely free to express themselves and find a vibrant social gathering place away from parental influence. Though some rules are present (No drugs or alcohol, for example,) Alex’s Place is a designated area for an age group that finds itself often stigmatized and forgotten. While many attempts at a “teen center” tend to go awry under the clumsy hand of patronizing, dated administrators, Alex’s Place is the hallmark of a new generation. With a focus on music and live performance, it’s a staging ground for a novel teen social space that provides much-needed outlets and entertainment. Located in the Vineyard’s local YMCA branch, the center provides a constant stream of live music and is open year round for both islanders and visitors.

The space is home to a massive variety of ways for teenagers to spend time. There’s a full kitchen, a performance stage, billiards tables, pinball machines, and places to study, plus a TV area and sofas aplenty. Qualified mentors can be found throughout the center as resources for the teens, and are CPR certified. Local Vineyard businesses pitched in to make Alex’s Place from faraway dream into much-needed reality.

The center was created by the Alexandra MM Gagnon Foundation, a fund in memory of Alex Gagnon, a local that spent summers on the Vineyard, but sadly lost her battle with substance abuse at age twenty-three. In her memory, and to preserve her legacy, Alexandra’s family created Alex’s Place to provide the teenagers of the Vineyard with wholesome opportunities. This dream has blossomed into reality, and the teenagers of Martha’s Vineyard will be reaping the benefits of this wholesome space for years to come.

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