The YAK youth center in Palmer is back open after an extensive relocation and renovation project.

Executive director Jeff Gail said the nonprofit moved a couple blocks down from its old location after its lease was up. Now the center has settled in next to Humdinger’s Pizza. 

“The trick with getting this space was finding a space within Palmer, Alaska, which was difficult in and of itself, that’s affordable and accessible so all these youth can walk here from school,” Gail said. “That was a No. 1 priority we needed to do which limited it tremendously.”

One of the center’s biggest advocates is 12-year-old Sammy Christian who’s in seventh grade at Palmer Junior Middle School. She said she’s been coming to the YAK since she was old enough to get in the door.

“I love this place. It makes me happy when I’m down. Everyone here makes me happy, all my friends are here,” Sammy said. “All the games they have, the snacks, everything here is amazing and it makes so many other kids happy, too.”

The YAK is free for youth sixth through 12th grade. Dylan Bordwell, also a seventh-grader at Palmer Junior Middle school, said it provides a safe place to go after school.

“Instead of going out and breaking into cars or doing a bunch of bad stuff they have a place to go and have friends,” Dylan said.

With a pool table, foosball table, board games and jewelry making, there’s no shortage of activities to keep kids engaged.

“We don’t want them to come in here and check out and zone out. So when I hear, ‘What’s the Wi-Fi password’ or ‘Do you have any video games?’ No, no, don’t have that,” Gail said. “It’s not like we check cell phones at the door but we definitely want, and our main focus here is, engaging relationship peer-building opportunities.”

The YAK is open Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. No registration is required.

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