Alex’s Place, a community center where teenagers can draw comics, learn to play the ukulele and escape the numerous pressures of Island life, has a new director with a new philosophy for the space.

“It’s not literally inmates running the asylum,” Ryan Schwab-Doyon, 29, said with a laugh. “But it is kids deciding what they want to do.”

Mr. Schwab-Doyon recently stepped in for Tony Lombardi, the former youth center director who ran Alex’s Place for six years until he suffered a stroke in December.

Mr. Lombardi is a former heroin addict who dedicated his life to keeping kids away from drugs and helping those who struggled with addiction. His passion for fighting substance abuse was evident in almost every element of Alex’s Place, including its name.

The youth center is named for Alexandra Gagnon, a 23-year-old woman who died of a heroin overdose in 1998. Her parents, Jacques and Marfi Gagnon, donated $1.2 million to open the youth center in 2011 in hopes that it might spare other parents from losing a child to addiction. Alex's place is free for all teens, and supported entirely through community donations.

Mr. Lombardi had a gift for developing activities that helped kids who were at risk for becoming addicted to drugs, such as a workshop where teens help grownups understand their smartphones or in-house dinners with the kids and interesting community members, Mr. Schwab-Doyon said.

“The programming he did — the elder tech days, the casual mentorship programs — those are really important,” he said. “He was the lifeblood of this place.”

Mr. Schwab-Doyon began working part time with Mr. Lombardi at Alex’s Place in 2016 on Friday and Saturday nights. He had a full-time job at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, but he took the job with Alex’s Place because it offered him a special opportunity.

“I’ve always had a passion for working with kids,” he said.

YMCA executive director Jill Robie asked Mr. Schwab-Doyon to take over for Mr. Lombardi in April, and he jumped at the chance.

And while he plans to continue Mr. Lombardi’s signature programming, he intends to put his "own spin on things” by moving the focus away from drug abuse and toward a problem he himself faced as a teenager growing up in rural Vermont — isolation.

About 30 kids make the daily trek from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to the Y, where Alex’s Place is housed, Mr. Schwab-Doyon estimated. Every day, he sees them clutching their smartphones, worrying that they don’t have enough followers on Instagram and wondering why they weren’t invited to the party everyone is talking about on Snapchat.

“Phones can be pretty depressing,” he said.

So he decided his job would be to try and get his kids to look up from their phones, to engage with him — and with each other.

The new director — who would look like a teenager himself if he wasn’t sporting an impressive brown beard — doesn’t sit in his office watching over his teens. Mr. Schwab-Doyon plays video games with his kids, he talks to them about their days, and he asks them to think about the kind of place Alex’s Place should be.

He let the kids rearrange the furniture, pick out new posters — Wonder Woman looks down on the television nook, Pink Floyd and the Beatles reign over the computers — and decide whether he should organize a Super Smash Brothers video game tournament or a Stranger Things binge-watching party on Saturday night.

Next fall, he hopes to work with the high school to develop a teen board of directors who would take on some of the decision-making at Alex’s Place in exchange for course credits.

“My philosophy is, I want to get the kids input,” said Mr. Schwab-Doyon. “It’s their space, I’d like them to like it.”

But with all these changes in store for Alex’s Place, one element will never change. A plaque hangs on the wall shows a young woman with a big smile watching over the room. Next to the photo is an obituary that details a life filled with travel and adventure.

“The Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center . . . is dedicated to helping teens develop their talents, enhance mind, body and spirit and build friendships,” the obituary reads. “Alex would be very proud that her legacy makes this possible on her beloved Island.”