Astoria’s only city-sponsored teen center has come out of hiding at the Astoria Recreation Center (ARC).

It took a year of planning, a raffle fundraiser, donations by a large community coalition and a grant from the Ford Family Foundation.

The center, a single room at the new ARC, is filled with a giant flat-screen TV television, video games, foosball, air hockey, a reading corner, arts and crafts. It opened Friday night with a ribbon cutting, packed with members of the Ford Institute Leadership Program, who helped make it happen.

“It’s such a diverse group who joined this,” said Lily Teadtke, a senior at Astoria High School, about the leadership program.

The leadership program, sponsored by the rurally focused nonprofit Ford Family Foundation, included high-schoolers like Teadtke and members from the city of Astoria, Clatsop County, nonprofits, the downtown association and the community at large.

Over a five-year period, the program brings together a diverse cross-section of the community to teach leadership skills. Three separate cohorts of about 30 people each within that five-year period take classes and raise at least $5,000 for a community project, in exchange for a $5,000 match from the Ford Family Foundation.

A first cohort in 2010 installed the disc golf course near the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. The second in 2012 used their fundraiser for work on the disc golf course.

Charlene Larsen, a local recruiter for the leadership program, said an initial idea for the third cohort in 2014 was to increase the nine-hole disc golf course to 18, making it a draw for regional tournaments. But Larsen said the teen members of this cohort spoke up, wanting a space of their own.

“There really aren’t a lot of areas where they can go and hang out, and not have to spend money,” said Madeline Ishikawa, a member of the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) and the leadership program.

The city’s previous teen center was hidden in the basement of St. Mary Star of the Sea. Ishikawa said it gave the impression that teens aren’t a high priority.

Once it had decided to pursue improving the teen center, 2014’s cohort created a raffle for prizes including a cruise with Columbia River Eco Tours and stays at the Cannery Pier Hotel. They raised $3,500 through the raffle. In-kind donations and donated labor helped reach the $5,000 mark, said Astoria Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby, a member of the cohort. The total project budget was $12,000.

Jess Hampton, a coordinator with Rural Development Initiatives overseeing the leadership program in northwest Oregon, said although Astoria’s five-year cycle in the program has come to an end, it has an opportunity to reapply.

Cosby’s department now takes over the teen center at 1555 W. Marine Drive, which is free and meant for youth in middle and high school. It is open from when school is out for the day to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but is closed on weekends.

For more information, visit www.astoriaparks.com