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Teens Disrupt Calm at Kroc Center in Dorchester

Disruptive youth at the Kroc Center are called to task by Kroc Center security who "read the riot act" to the kids and ask them to leave, with the proviso: "One more time and you won't be allowed back."
Boston Kroc Center
Veterans Day 2013

My neighbor walked by so I expressed my concern and told her the story.  "All he cares about is being 16," she said, then asked: "He wasn't thrown out again, was he?"

On Veterans Day, November 11 2013, I hurried to the Kroc Center knowing they were closing at noon and arrived around 11:30.  Adjacent to where I wanted to start working out in the First Floor Fitness Center were about 10 teenagers, all guys, talking amongst themselves very loudly. This is not the usual environment I come to expect at the Kroc Center.

What I usually encounter are the quiet tones of people trading stories about working out or people talking while helping each other. Or a fitness consultant might be giving somebody advice on how to use one of the machines more effectively.  In fact, no one tends to pay very much attention to the sounds because there aren't many. More important is who's using what machine and where can I start my workout.

On that Veterans Day morning, I found the teenagers so loud it was upsetting. I asked the kids politely and gently to move so I could work out (I recognized one of them). They did – about five feet away to the back wall where they sat down on top of storage lockers and continued their  talking.

I tried paying no attention to their conversation but it was hard to miss the comments about Facebook and Twitter, what clothes their friends were wearing, what their friends were doing and the laughter, all of it fueled by the smart phones in their hands.  With their changing male voices, they sounded more like adults than kids. 

Security Gets Involved

Then something interrupted the concentration I was putting into my reps.  Security had arrived.  "Look we are tired of hearing complaints."  "Interesting," I thought. "I guess I'm not the only person disturbed by their behavior."  A security person with a no nonsense demeanor, addressed the kids:  "Are you guys going to work out or what?  You're not allowed to just sit back here."  The kids didn't answer and their dogged silence set the verbal interchange on the edge of hostility.  Security left.

I was standing pretty close to the one youth I know, so I said:  "What would your mother have to say about this?"  His answer surprised me: "She wouldn't say anything!"  I doubted that knowing how much she cares about her children.

About five minutes before closing time, security returned (again!).  "You are going to have to leave," at which point the kids started changing their clothes.  "You're not allowed to change your clothes here.  Go into the locker room."  They didn't. "If we have to talk you one more time, you won't be allowed back."  Most of them said nothing and walked away.  One youth, and I'm sorry I didn't speak with him myself to offer a compliment or give him a hug, asked security: "Are you serious? You mean we really wouldn't be allowed back here?"  "That's right." The young man seemed to take "no" for a definitive answer and begin processing the implications of his behavior on the future.


Keeping the Kroc Center Safe

In my busy (lazy?) life, I don't spend a lot of time at the Kroc Center but I rarely encounter disruptions to the usual calm, peaceful and safe environment. Only once before did I get security involved.  I don't remember the incident but I know it warranted intervention. 

The Kroc Center is not just a health center, an after school program and a place where parents bring their children expecting a healthy and safe environment, but it's also offered to the community within a spiritual context.  The Kroc Center handled the Veterans Day incident without the staff sounding like, or looking like, a military brigade. It's important that Kroc Center personnel continue to take swift action when patrons go awry. This is not to call for punishment or retribution but for setting limits and establishing an atmosphere of accountability.  That way everyone knows the rules and what is expected.

A couple days later our beloved youth came waltzing down the street with a friend and I waved to them both and said hello. He smiled back, apparently none the worse for wear.  He's back at the Kroc Center, looking just like all the other kids and having a good time.


Posted: November 18, 2013     Nancy J Conrad


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