BATH, Maine — Most teenagers crave a place they can call their own, a place they belong. Perhaps now, more than ever, that's what they need.
The Midcoast Youth Center and Skatepark has been such a place for so many teens over the years, but today it is a quiet place. A far cry from how it was more than a year ago when I visited at the beginning of 2020 and 100 students were playing games, sipping slushies, skating, and scooting after school.
Their doors are still open but like everywhere, they have a limited capacity of only 35 kids at a time in the center and a dozen at the skatepark. They are using this time to upgrade Maine's largest skatepark and give it a fresh new look for when more kids can return.
Jud Heald is a pro skater who runs Untitled Skateboards, a faith-based skateboard company in Missouri. Heald grew up in Skowhegan and returned to Maine in March to give the skatepark a serious remodel.
"I'm really picky about good ramps," says Heald. Growing up in Skowhegan, Heald says there were very few places to skate so he started building his own ramps. His interest grew into a passion and finally his occupation and life's mission.
"I was a hellion. I went to an alternative school and that school was great for me," explains Heald. Giving back to a place like the Midcoast Youth Center hits close to home for him.
"Like this place where there's people who can deal with people who can't just sit down," says Heald.
Brody Losier is helping with the remodel and happy to do it. He's been coming to the skatepark since he was a kid.
"My dad always had me at the skatepark so that I wasn't getting into trouble and other things I shouldn't be doing and so that I was always productive with my energy. That's why I like it here and still come here," says Losier.
Michaela Peterson has been skating since she was 8 and is now a teen leader at the center.
"It's just kind of an outlet and it just clears your mind of everything you are doing except skating because you're just focused on landing something and there's all these people around you giving you all this energy to do something," she explains.
The center was recently selected for a $25,000 grant for improvements as they work to help kids in the area combat drug addiction, depression, and suicide.
Staff says they have more big plans for the youth center. including building a kitchen for kids to cook and a gym where kids can work out.
The teen center underwent a large redevelopment in 2019, mainly due to the vision of one woman. Jamie Dorr has been successfully transforming the skatepark from a cool hangout to a community center that provides support to hundreds of area students.