New leader takes reins at Bristol’s Hub Teen Center

BRISTOL — Taylor Welch just landed a dream job, and the Bristol Hub Teen Center just landed a new director with training in psychology and art.
Harry Potter fans will also be pleased to learn that Welch, 25, has Quidditch experience.
“I played Quidditch at UVM and I’ve asked some of my former teammates if they’d be willing to come down and give a workshop,” she said.
For uninitiated Muggles, Quidditch is a sport invented for the Harry Potter books by author J. K. Rowling. In the books (and subsequent films) it involves a lot of flying around on broomsticks. The nonfictional earthbound version played, on school campuses and elsewhere, involves a lot of running around … on broomsticks.
Welch took over at the Hub on April 15, replacing Brian LaClair, who resigned in January.
While 5-Town students were off for spring break, she did some work in the Hub building, which included painting a mural on one of the walls. She also organized ramp repairs in the nearby Skate Park.
For the most part, though, she’s still getting to know her way around.
“I’m in maintain mode right now,” she said. “Getting to know the kids, seeing what their needs are. They were really familiar with Brian, and now they’re probably trying to figure out who I am and what I’m about.”
Change can sometimes be hard on kids, she added.
Welch and her husband, Micah Plante, who makes and repairs stringed instruments, moved to Bristol last August — right around the time the Hub was celebrating its 20th anniversary.     ONE OF TAYLOR Welch’s first accomplishments at The Hub was to paint a mural on one of the teen center’s walls while 5-Town students were off for spring break.
Independent photo/Christopher Ross
Before coming to the Hub, she worked for a year and a half as a behavioral interventionist at the Howard Center in Burlington, which offers mental health, substance use and development disability services to children, adults and families in Chittenden County.
That experience will come in handy next month, when the town of Bristol and its Recreation Department begin discussions about a future Bristol Community Center.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about ways the make the next teen center more ‘kid-centric,’” Welch said.
First and foremost, she explained, kids need to feel comfortable.
“There is trauma for kids in all sorts of places. They need to feel safe, unjudged and supported,” Welch said.
Another important quality: cleanliness. And the space, she added, shouldn’t be too overwhelming or over-stimulating.
“After school, kids are totally burnt,” Welch said. “They’ve had to be on and focused and engaged all day. Zoning out at the Hub is OK.”
Welch also hopes to nudge kids toward non-screen activities, including games like Quidditch or Sardines (which is sort of like the reverse of hide-and-seek).
In the meantime, the new Hub director is preparing for her first “lock-in” on May 31.
A lock-in is a big sleepover supervised by adults. The Hub has been sponsoring these for a while now, but this one will be Welch’s first as an adult.
She used to do them as a kid growing up in the Lake Region of New Hampshire.
“It was always a really special thing,” Welch said. “One night we got to sleep over in the Boston Science Museum, in the dinosaur section.”
The Hub is expecting 20 to 30 kids to participate on May 31, but probably not any dinosaurs.
At one end of the Teen Center there will be a Super Smash Bros. videogame competition and a movie. At the other end, kids can color in adult coloring books donated by Recycled Reading.
Welch, along with AmeriCorps volunteer Tayler Goodwin (Bristol Recreation Department’s other Tayler, but with an “er”), will also be offering a workshop involving face and/or mud masks.
The Hub serves youths up to age 19 with the mission of providing a safe, supervised, substance-free environment when school is not in session. According to its most recent website numbers, more than 400 individual teens visit each year, with 20 to 50 teens stopping in each day on average.
Department director Meridith McFarland is thrilled to have Welch on board.
“The Bristol Recreation Department and the Bristol Hub are excited to have Taylor Welch as the new Hub Director,” she said. “Taylor brings a vibrant vibe to the Hub with knowledge of local musicians, connections with other youth programs and being a resident of the community.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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