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Next Step

More than a year has passed since its founding, but Next Level 4 Teens finally has its new teen center. Saturday, Sept. 9, the center topped off four Saturdays of open houses with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening.

"We are ready to go to work," founder Fred Mitchell said. "These are the kids we need to influence for the next generation."

Mitchell created Next Level 4 Teens following the March 22, 2004, shooting death of 15-year-old Donald Nicholas Showmaker. Shoemaker was killed while hanging out at a friend's house.

Mitchell, then the youth pastor at Capitol Community Church, where his brother, Chester Mitchell, is the pastor, knew he had to do something for the teenagers of Loudoun County. Out of that knowledge came Next Level 4 Teens, a private, nonprofit, after-school program for both teens and their families.

"We got here because something happened in this area and someone had to respond," he said.

The center, located in Pipeline Plaza off of Ashburn Village Boulevard, will offer everything from SAT prep classes and teen support groups to private tutoring and nutrition counseling.

SEVERAL LOCAL business owners and community leaders as well as Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) and School Board member John Andrews (Potomac) attended the ceremony to show their support for Mitchell's vision.

"This center shows true dedication to the youth here in the Ashburn area and in Loudoun County," Andrews said. "Centers like this provide a place for youth to go and enjoy themselves, but, at the same time, have educational opportunities."

Mitchell, and those involved with the center, hope to create a safe place for teens in Loudoun County to come after school, where they will not only receive help in school work, but to talk about important social and emotional issues they face.

"If we could come together to put a man on the moon, then if we come together, work together and dream together, we can make sure our kids are safe," Pastor Chester Mitchell said. "Dreams are always bigger than one entity."

In order to accommodate teenagers from all financial backgrounds, the center will offer cheaper tutoring alternatives, such as homework clubs. People in the community are encouraged to donate money to sponsor a teen so he or she can use the center's services for free. Mitchell's goal is to have 240 companies sponsor a child for one month, at $260 per month.

Mitchell also has a vision of partnering with local companies to expose Next Level 4 Teens participants to the business world.

"I want to see field trips into these companies to put the mind-set in kids that they need to do well in school," he said. "What we want is a relationship with the companies here in Loudoun County so we are literally taking the next generation to the next level."