South Middle School students compete to raise funds for new teen center; lots of Lawrence public school happenings for Friday

Loose change is not usually highly sought after by teenagers, but parents of sixth-graders at South Middle School may be noticing the contrary. The students have been competing in a “penny war” to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center.

The students have already raised more than $200 so far, and the competition is set to continue the rest of the month, said sixth-grade English teacher Chelsea King. The sixth-graders are divided into two teams, each with a coin jar, King explained. Pennies count as positive points and silver coins and bills count as negative points, and the team with the highest balance at the end wins.

King said that since a lot of the students participate in the Boys & Girls Club afterschool program, that they decided they would like to donate the proceeds of the penny war toward the future teen center.

The club’s current 6,000-foot teen center at 1520 Haskell Ave. only has room for about 70 participants in its afterschool program, and club officials have said that the center has had a waiting list for the past two years. The club has been raising money to build a new (and much larger) center that will enable it to serve five times as many students.

The Boys & Girls Club has the ultimate fundraising goal of $5 million to build the teen center, and as of a few months ago had raised about $1.2 million. In November, a donor honored Don “Red Dog” Gardner as the namesake of the future center. Gardner has led community workouts for youth and adults in Lawrence for more than 30 years.

Colby Wilson, executive director of the center, said that there will be an update on the project’s progress in the next couple months. The goal remains to have the teen center open in late 2017, he said.

In other news and notes for Friday:

– Many of the elementary schools
are holding parties in the afternoon
for Valentine’s Day. Most are around
2 p.m., but you can check your
student’s school calendar at for exact times (There are
some creative names for these
parties, by the way, including
Friendship Parties and Warm Hearts
Hillcrest Elementary School fifth-graders are taking their Ski
trip on Friday.
Liberty Memorial Central Middle School is holding a Parents’ Group
Social from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The
cost to attend is $5 at the door,
which also covers pizza.
South Middle School is hosting a Valentine’s Dance for students from 6
p.m. to 8 p.m. It is also the last
day of Spirit Week, and Friday’s
theme is Star Wars.
Southwest Middle School is also hosting a dance from 3:30 p.m. to 5
West Middle School is hosting a dance/activity night from 6 p.m. to 8