After months of preparation and purchasing, Next Level 4 Teens Inc. held an open house Saturday, Aug. 19, the first of four scheduled over the next month.
The open houses are a way to introduce Loudoun parents to the services and programs offered by Next Level's teen center, leading up to the grand opening Saturday, Sept. 9.
At the first open house, several teens hung out in the main room of the Ashburn center, playing video games on the flat screen televisions that lined one wall and surfing the Internet on one of the center's many computers. A couple teens hung out and talked in the center's café.
Some of the teenagers were already signed up for Next Level's after-school program; others were there because they planned to volunteer at the center.
Sisters, Shayda and Ranna Mohajer, became involved with Next Level after their mother met representatives of the organization at the Loudoun Youth Fest in May. The girls plan on tutoring other teens once school starts.
"I have always wanted to help out and volunteer," Shayda Mohajer, a rising eighth-grader at Belmont Ridge Middle School, said. "It feels really good to help people."
Ranna Mohajer, a rising 10th-grader at Stone Bridge High School, said she would eventually like to become involved with peer mentoring and mediation.
"I would like talking with some of the kids that come in with their issues about school and stuff," she said. "I am usually good at giving advice."
Throughout Saturday, parents came into the center to meet with Next Level founder, Fred Mitchell, and learn about the opportunities available for their children.
Lyla Madrigal, a single mother of rising second-grader Adam, learned about Next Level through her job in marketing for Costco, but never thought she could afford to send her son.
"I told [Mitchell] of course I can't afford this and he just smiled and said, 'We can make it work,'" Madrigal said.
After a meeting with Mitchell and learning about sponsorships, Madrigal was able to sign up Adam for Next Level's after-school program three times a week.
"Compared to what you see out there, this is really fair," she said. "And you're not just putting them out there to play; you're doing positive things with them."
Figuring out a way to provide services for families that cannot afford them is a big part of Next Level's mission.
"That's why we need sponsors, so we can support the families that come through our doors," Mitchell said.