ALAMEDA COUNTY (KCBS) — The state-of-the-art REACH Ashland Youth Center celebrated its grand opening Wednesday afternoon after a decade-long, youth-driven effort to improve the neighborhood.

The two-story, 31,000 plus square-foot facility on East 14th Street is located in an area between San Leandro and Castro Valley struggling with issues such as high dropout rates, teen pregnancy and gang violence.

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It was that very struggle that prompted a group of students 10 years ago to ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to help.

22-year-old Lamont Thompson played an intricate role in getting the center built. “What we want to get is a teen center where kids can come together, where they can socialize, get educated, have fun and just be themselves and be in a position where there’s a safe place to do that,” he said.

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The years of persistence paid off. Built on the side of an old car lot, the $23 million facility offers a health and dental clinic, café, gym, dance studio, computer lab and more.

Hillary Bass with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Activities League said the center is proof youth can make a difference

“For the community at large it means hope and change in something different to look forward to instead of cycles of what’s been happening for so many years now,” she said.

The county paid for the center with redevelopment funds.

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