Liberty Hall to cater to youth

End-of-year bash to help establish new program

Kansas University graduates walk down the Hill. High school seniors have Project Graduation.

Now junior high schoolers and those leaving elementary school for the last time have this afternoon at Liberty Hall.

The end-of-the-year bash, with more than 2,000 sixth- through ninth-graders invited, starts at 2 p.m. today and is a dress rehearsal for Wednesdays @ Liberty Hall, a youth- and business-friendly program that officially launches this fall.

The program, financed by a two-year, $50,000 grant from the United Way of Douglas County, is designed primarily to give youngsters a place to congregate downtown.

Organizers hope that providing such a destination will help relieve some of the stress the students place on merchants each Wednesday during the school year. With early releases turning the students loose at 1:30 p.m., they often start migrating toward Massachusetts Street.

The folks at Arizona Trading Co., 736 Mass., welcome about three dozen of the students each Wednesday.

Get involved

Want to help provide entertainment, guidance or resources for junior high schoolers during this fall's Wednesdays @ Liberty Hall program? E-mail Mary Olive Thompson, project coordinator, at maryolivethompson@sunflower.com.

"They just like to hang out, and sometimes they buy stuff," said Tricia Rock, a clerk who gets to know many of the new and future paying customers. "It's fun. They'll walk around and look at things, try stuff on and then hang out on our couches. It's like they're at home."

Mary Olive Thompson's goal is to steer many of those students toward Liberty Hall, the former opera house that today is a movie theater and home to live music shows, receptions and other social events.

More about the program

Thompson is project coordinator for the Wednesdays @ Liberty Hall program, which seeks to empower youths to make healthy choices and follow positive values.

"It's about giving them an alternative," she said. "They want to hang out downtown. This gives them a destination."

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