New and improved teen center spurs community pride in Landfall

Aspiring musicians and soon-to-be seventh graders Kris (left) and Kevin work on some hip-hop beats in the Landfall Teen Center’s recording studio. (Joshua Nielsen / Review)

Landfall Teen Center staff member Kunle Ajao demonstrates how to create and print a rhombus on the teen center’s new 3D printer. (Joshua Nielsen / Review)

Family Means’ Teen Center in Landfall recently reopened after an extensive interior facelift.

The teen center -- housed in a second-story loft space near the eastern shore of Tanners Lake -- has been a focal point of community activities for young people since it opened its doors in 1999.

While small in size, the center provides a supervised space for Landfall teens to gather and socialize. FamilyMeans, a Stillwater-based nonprofit organization, offers free after-school and summer programs for Landfall teens in the loft space, including homework help and several arts, sports and learning activities, as well as field trips and volunteer projects. The lower level has a full-service bike shop, where kids learn to repair bicycles and can earn a bike of their own.

FamilyMeans Teen Center coordinator Paul Shanafelt says the interior space was gutted, and over the course of about six months workers and volunteers transformed the small space. The new and improved teen center now has a full kitchen, new flooring and windows, a fresh coat of paint and a deck with views of the lake.

It also features some new technology, including a computer station with iPads, a gaming system, a security system and even a 3D printer.

The renovation project cost about $70,000, not including the new technology. FamilyMeans did receive a large financial gift to cover part of the cost, as well as a passenger van and new windows donated by Andersen Windows, but local teens rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to complete much of the work.

“Kids put in a lot of their own sweat equity into the project,” Shanafelt says. “They were a big part of the design phase and helped with some of the woodworking and interior painting.”

One of those kids is a shy sixth-grader named Kris, who says the teen center now has more space and separate areas for different activities.

“You can walk around easier and there’s more to do,” he explains.

Kris took an immediate liking to the new recording studio and has already been working on recording a few hip-hop songs with his friend Santos. 

Shanafelt helps foster this type of creativity. A University of Minnesota graduate with a degree in youth studies, he has a background in teaching and engineering live sound. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and passion for music with kids in the small recording studio he designed.

Tom Yuska, FamilyMeans director of youth programs, says the kids are proud of the teen center.

It’s a place that inspires teens to be active in their community - many volunteer, helping with service projects.

He says in days past many kids were reluctant to tell their classmates that they lived in Landfall, a manufactured home community. Now a lot of kids bring their friends from neighboring suburbs to show off their youth center, and many proudly wear their neighborhood soccer league jerseys to school.

“This place has brought a lot of community pride here. It gets kids invested in their community,” Yuska says.

He said an exterior paint job will cap the teen center’s renovations later this summer.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7822.


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