By Lauren Fulbright
Despite a steady rainfall outside, about a dozen teenagers gathered at the Lansdowne Library, located at 500 3rd Avenue, on Nov. 4 as they enjoyed a weekly teen gaming event.
As he played an Xbox game called "Rock Band" with friends, Jordan Schnapp banged on a drum pad as he kept time with a series of brightly colored patterns on the screen.
A ninth-grader at Lansdowne High, Jordan has played video games for about seven years.
"At home, I'm usually playing by myself and here, I get to play with a bunch of people," said Schnapp, who comes to the event almost every week.
He said the Thursday gaming afternoons give kids an opportunity to act more like themselves than they can at other places like the mall. "Because at the mall, they're going to try and act all cool," he said.
Malik Baker, 14, a ninth-grader at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, played "Super Smash Brothers Brawl" with several friends.
Library supervisor Jerome Graham said the event brings kids into the library and gets them off the streets.
"So they're at least doing something after school that's keeping them out of trouble," said Graham, who said the event usually draws 10 to 30 teens.
While drawing teens into the library is the main objective of the gaming afternoons, Cindy Swanson-Farmarco, librarian in charge, said many teens already come into the library after school.
The gaming gives them something to do besides getting on the computers, which may already be taken up by other users, she said.
She said the gaming program has existed at the library for at least three years.
Outside the dark meeting room, Baltimore resident Mary Concannon helped the kids prepare oatmeal.
"It's good," said Chayse Wagner, 14, as he heaped raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar onto a pile of Quaker Oats.
Concannon, who works at the University of Maryland Extension Service, tries to come to the library most Thursdays for "Fun Food Fest," a program that teaches the kids how to prepare healthy food for themselves.
"They're coming in when they're really hungry after school, so they're more willing to try unfamiliar foods," Concannon said.
In conjunction with Lighthouse Inc., a youth and family service center, the library also offers a program called Fall Teens, which offers snacks, games and an opportunity to talk about a variety of topics, Swanson-Farmarco said.
The goal of the program is to get kids to open up and talk about their problems, in addition to giving them something productive to do after school, she said.
On a television set in the meeting room, a group of animated characters battled on a race track while they tried to avoid being flattened by space-age looking vehicles or run over by a group of black-eyed racing figures on small carts.
"It's a lot of fun," said Malik, who has been coming to the event for about a year.
For Chayse, 14, a ninth-grader at Lansdowne High School, the weekly event offers a break from home, school work, parental nagging and "life in general."
"It's fun and I get to play around with my friends," said Chayse, who has been coming to the gaming afternoons for several years. "And I'm very competitive," he said.
Darwin Interiano, 15, another ninth-grader at Lansdowne High, expressed similar sentiments.
"I actually like it," he said about the gaming event. "Because I actually get a chance to get out of the house and come and play with my friends."
As the evening began to wind down, Graham joined the kids in a game of "Rock Band" as he played a small black guitar.
"It's great," Graham said about working at the open mike night. "I love it."
"I actually wish there was something like this when I was in school," he said.
Teen gaming is offered at the library Thursdays, 3-4:30 p.m.
Fall Teens is held 3:15 p.m. Mondays. Registration is required.