Lafayette, La. (KLFY) — Local teens began gathering Saturday night at a new youth center established to help thwart teen violence and keep them off the streets of Lafayette.

The “Safe Haven’ initiative, backed by Lafayette parish councilman “AB” Rubin, is a place where teens can go where everything would be all about them.

It takes place every Saturday from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. at the Girard Park recreation center.

The itinerary includes a meet and greet, tutoring, counseling and life coaching sessions, a 30-minute motivational speaker and then two hours of free time.

“I’m overjoyed. I’m excited. I mean there’s a lot of adjectives that I could use right now to explain how I’m feeling, Rubin said.

The teens, mentors, and volunteers all gathered with one specific mission, to reduce teen violence.

“Every summer, our crime rate goes up. I would like it to stop, Rubin said.

“It’s like an escape from all the violence that they have around where we grew up,” Ja’Qwell Charles said.

The first speaker was 15th Judicial District Judge Royale Colbert.

Colbert’s speech focused on encouraging young people to make better choices.

“I feel like all the stuff that’s happening in the world, so it’s just a good thing to take your mind off of all that stuff.” Journey Martin said.

Rubin says although most of his efforts have been applauded, he has also been received some negative feedback.

With everything you do, you’re going to get one or two negative responses. But for every one negative response I got maybe 20 or 30 positive,” he said.

“I take the negative as well because it teaches me and it helps me to grow to think about other things.”

He says he is now working on ways to get transportation for those unable to attend due to no family vehicle and wants to thank those who helped in making the first day a success.

“To the young man and the young lady who donated today in Walmart to this safe haven not knowing anything about it but what I told them today, I would really like to thank them for stepping up and going above and beyond.”

Safe haven happens every Saturday night.

All teens in middle and high school are welcome.

Everyone, before entering, will walk through a metal detector which has been stationed at the front door.