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After Boys and Girls Club Shooting, Where Can Teens Hang Out?

Emergency servicesThe August 19 shooting outside the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee Street made headlines from coast to coast. And as mourners attend funerals for the young men who died in the attack, parents, neighbors, pastors, and community leaders are worried Rochester youth don’t have enough safe places to have fun.

Marisol Ramos Lopez, the commissioner of the Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth services, says some parents tell her they’re scared to send their kids back to the Boys and Girls Club. Even so, Lopez and others insist the Boys and Girls Club remains a “safe haven” for children and teens; she pointed to the group’s security guards, cameras, and extensive lock-down procedures.

“To get a call and say there’s a shooting, come to the location and find people laying on the ground…it not only it affects the community, it affects the youth that come here for leisure and for a safe haven and now you have children in fear because they don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Sarah Dunbar, who lives near the Genesee Street club.

While news of the shooting became a major story on national news outlets, local teenagers were blowing up each others’ phones and social media feeds with news and messages of support. The Associated Press recently reported that among young people, the so-called digital divide has been closed. Black and Latino millennials now utilize social media and news at the same level as their white peers. That’s because the proliferation of smartphones into the hands of teenagers has expanded access to the Internet, with 34% of Americans going online exclusively with their phones.

That also makes Rochester teens part of the most digitally savvy generation ever; 64% of teens read news online regularly (even if Facebook is their most popular source of news). But although the digital gap may soon be a relic of the past, too many black and Latino teens lack access to safe recreation spaces offline. And that recreation gap is exactly what made the Boys and Girls Club shooting such a tragic blow, as a safe haven became a scene of terror.

But despite the shooting, Lopez is still urging teens to come on by.