CLINTON — Michelle Witzke’s dream is about to come true.
After reading that a survey of 347 Clinton high school students in 2014 showed that 80 percent would attend a teen center, Witzke began thinking about the steps it would take to build one from scratch in Clinton. On Sunday, The Vault teen center, located at 802 North Side Square in Clinton, will officially open after more than a year of work on the site.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled by what God can do with a simple step of faith,” she said. “It has been an honor and privilege to have been on the front lines of this mission to bring a fun, safe and encouraging place for our kids to socialize, receive support and have opportunities to discover new passions and potential.”
A grand opening is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, food, entertainment and a recognition of the community.
“I’m so excited and a little nervous, too,” she said.
The Vault will be open for junior high students from 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays.
High school students will be welcome from 3 to 7 p.m. each Tuesday through Thursdays and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays.
DeWitt County Sheriff Jered Shofner has been a supporter of the project from the beginning.
“I am proud to be one of the founding members of The Vault board of directors,” he said.
“The concept of The Vault is to create an environment for positive youth development," he said. "It is a place our community can support the leaders of tomorrow and help them grow. More kids at The Vault now will mean less young adults in our jail in the future.”
Witzke said the center is opening because of support from the community.
“With skyrocketing rates of drug use, depression, anxiety, pregnancy and social isolation with our rural teens, there has never been a time that this is more needed,” she said. “Especially with the difficult times that DeWitt County has faced in the past few years, it brings me such joy to see the spirit of the community uplifted as they have rallied with hundreds of volunteers and over 10,000 volunteer hours around something positive for our kids.”
Even while it was still being worked on, The Vault was a place of comfort for Clinton teens during the past year following the accidental deaths of two high school students, one in March and one in September. In an effort to help the grieving process, students wrote messages in honor of their classmates on the windows of the center.
"As a student at Clinton High School, I am so thrilled about The Vault's grand opening," said Olivia Earl, who has been a student leader for The Vault since the beginning. "I feel like it was only a short time ago that the building was purchased and it is absolutely beautiful to see all of our hard work and effort come to life."
The public is invited to attend the ceremony.