Senior from North Nodaway High School turns old town theater into school passion project

HOPKINS, Mo. – A teen from North Nodaway High School is using her school passion project to renovate a portion of the former Roxy Theatre here, transforming the upstairs into a new youth center for a drug-and-alcohol-free experience.

The center would have televisions, gaming systems, an air hockey table, ping-pong table, board games, puzzles and a pool table.

Hopkins is a town of 600 residents, with around 200 students enrolled in the K-12 school system. The center would address the lack of activities for young people in town, says senior Morgan Pope.

Movies, dance recitals and live music performances were all part of the Roxy Theatre’s history. While the venue remains the host for the school play every year, it does not host any other events for youth.

The space holds a special place in Pope’s heart. The senior has participated in four school plays on the Roxy’s stage and has heard multiple stories from relatives and teachers about its glorious past.

“I always heard stories about things people got to do there and how beneficial it was,” Pope said. “When it came time for me to pick a passion project, it made sense to me that something I loved should be my choice. That was the Roxy for me.”

The Community 2000 group, dedicated to improving Hopkins, owns the theater, but has entrusted Pope and her youth committee with running the new youth center. Once the youth center is up and running, Pope wants to arrange family nights for a small fee, while all other events will be free for middle- and high-school students.

Don Crane from Parks and Recreation has finalized the renovation plans for the building, while Pope is fundraising for the youth center.

The senior says the center’s funds are distinct from the renovation budget for the theater’s lower level. Thus far, Pope has raised funds for renovations by selling ham balls and contributing to grant writing. She notes the assistance of the yearbook committee and other volunteers in the sales and distribution of ham balls.

Substance abuse and the well-being of her peers are areas Pope is equally passionate about. Her hope is that the center will reduce alcohol, drug and tobacco use among youth in Hopkins.

“I’m trying to avoid making it a school event, because I want kids to be who they are outside of things like school, church and family. I want them to have a space that is strictly theirs. I’m hopeful that some of the adults that are especially involved in the community can come out to supervise and make sure everything is safe and there is nothing happening that might jeopardize what I am doing with the Roxy.”

Pope is creating an Amazon wishlist for remaining project needs, and estimates a budget of $40,000 to $50,000. The senior is asking for the public’s time and skills to accomplish tasks at The Roxy.

“Morgan’s project has been about a love for community service and serving her community,” says Principal Roger Johnson. “It’s awesome that she chose this project. What I think is really admirable is her desire to help younger kids have an opportunity to find some place where they can be social in a safe environment that would be conducive to kids that age.

“She wanted to create an environment which is drug, alcohol and tobacco free where kids can learn good values and have some interaction with each other. What’s awesome about this is when somebody is passionate about something, they get the ball going and there are people who fall in line and want to help out. It tends to build and grow. I think that is what Morgan is starting to get to see.”

To donate or to help with renovations, contact Principal Johnson or Morgan Pope at North Nodaway High School, 660-778-3315.

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