New teen center opens at Marshall site

The Celtics’ Aron Baynes and Mayor Walsh sign the team logo at the new center.
Daniel Sheehan photo

Mayor Martin Walsh and members of the Boston Celtics organization helped to unveil a newly renovated teen center at the Boston Center for Youth and Families (BCYF) Marshall Community Center on Tuesday evening.

The new facility, located at the UP Academy site on Westville Street in Dorchester, is outfitted with a 3D printer, various coding and invention tech equipment, 20 new Chromebooks, and a foosball table, thanks to a city partnership with the Celtics and healthcare data firm Optum that gave the space a full makeover.

The BCYF Marshall center opened at the UP Academy last May after moving from their former space at the since repurposed Grover Cleveland School in Fields Corner. The space they moved into previously housed the Marshall Community Center, so it already had many of the necessary features of a BCYF center – a gym, a swimming pool, playing fields – but lacked others. Joy DePina, the director at BCYF Marshall, said the new teen center will do plenty to help complete that transition.

“We had to put a lot of TLC into this place initially,” she said. “But we’re really happy with how it looks now; I mean look at it!”

DePina gestured around the room at the new equipment and raved about the room’s recent paint job, which turned the walls Celtic green with basketball court markings.

The basketball theme of the unveiling was made complete by the presence of Celtics center Aron Baynes and former player Leon Powe, who joined the mayor in a Q&A portion.

In their advice to the kids gathered in the room, Walsh and the two players talked about working hard to achieve their dreams.

“I would tell everyone in this room, whatever your dream is, don’t give up on it,” said Walsh. “As young people, what you do today is preparing you for the future,” he added.

Keith Simon has been the computer instructor at the Marshall Community Center for four years. He said he hopes now, with the injection of new tech and science equipment, to be able to call himself a STEM instructor.

He explained that the handful of students playing with tiny robots at his table were actually learning a lesson about coding. By coloring in gaps in a black line on a sheet of paper, students can control the movement of the small wheeled bots that scan the surface beneath them, he said, adding, “each of the color codes tells the robot a different direction. So it combines robotics and coding, and this also applies to problem solving...if you think about Amazon, for example, in their warehouses they have robots that go around the warehouse and pick your products and get them ready for packaging. It’s the same principle.”

Elsewhere in the center, students fiddled with “Makey Makey” invention kits, which allow them to power computer programs with ordinary objects like bananas, teaching them about conduction along the way. In an adjacent computer lab stocked with new laptops, youths participated in an internet scavenger hunt, honing their research skills by hunting for answers to questions related to Celtics basketball history.

For Simon, the new equipment is vital to STEM-related programming and clubs he plans to initiate in the near future. “This will really help take us into the 21st century,” he said.

At the conclusion of the event, Walsh, Baynes, and Powe signed their names on the Celtic logo on the wall behind them, along with messages of inspiration. Walsh’s and Powe’s messages were straightforward: “Follow your dreams” and “Work hard,” respectively. But Baynes chose something a little different.

“I wrote kaizen, which is Japanese for daily improvement,” explained the Aussie. “Make yourself better every single day.”

For students and staff at the Marshall, Tuesday brought a healthy dose of kaizen.