Barrington Campus Life has blown into the community like a breath of fresh air.
This past Friday night they officially opened their new youth center on Lageschulte two blocks from Barrington High School. Billing it as the Greatest Opening of All Time – in many ways it was.
Barrington has struggled to create a youth center in the community for years. Activities for teens always rank high as a priority in the results of the Healthier Barrington Survey, conducted every three years. Yet the community’s previous efforts to address the need and fallen short many times.
Why is this teen center different?
Although the facility is a beautiful new building created specifically for teen gatherings, the real difference is its leader, Tony Au. He gets it. He understands youth, yet also knows how to communicate to adults and business leaders. I recently asked Tony how he ended up working for Youth for Christ and he gave me a very honest answer.
“I knew I wanted to work with kids so I studied to be a teacher,” he shared. “But when I graduated from college nobody was hiring. I couldn’t get a job.”
Tony explained that he started volunteering with local youth groups and became even more passionate about making a difference in the lives of area teens.
“I want to make a difference and help them the way I was helped,” Au explained.
Tony shared that there was not a lot of religion or structure in his life growing up. The father of a girl he knew in high school helped him develop a relationship with Christianity - which changed his life. Working with area youth groups he realized most gatherings were happening in family basements. Now with the new Barrington Campus Life Center, youth gatherings can move out of basements. There is now a place open to all area youth to drop in to do everything from homework with friends to participate in large scheduled events - and everything in between.
Tony has been reaching out to people all over the area for the past two years letting them know about the new center. He is amazed at how many people are willing to donate time and energy to support local youth, including a new tutoring center that will be sending volunteers to help students. Tony has also worked to have the center help other schools and organizations in return. The Barrington 220 Transition Program (BTP) that helps students in need of continued education in life skills for four years after high school, realized they will have more than double the number of students typical in the program next year. BTP will be using the kitchen and facility at Barrington Campus Life Center as part of their education program.
Tony Au also brings energy. Lots of it! It is hard not to feel energized and positive in his presence. The crowd attending Friday’s Greatest Opening of All Time were genuinely enthusiastic! There was a place for everyone no matter his or her mood. Excited clusters jumping up and down on the dance floor, smaller groups having conversations on sofas in the lobby or on the second level and also groups outside enjoying the warming weather and making s’mores. Everyone found a place where they were comfortable.
As an official launch party, Tony Au delivered what he promised - The Greatest Opening of All Time – at least in the Barrington area.