Island teens looking for 'place to call their own'
On March 14, a team of teens from grades 7 to 10, will make a presentation to the Town Council on why they need a meeting place of their own.
The teens currently meet at the Senior Center on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, but they cannot leave anything there, Melissa Minto, the town's teen co-ordinator, said. "We can't leave puzzles or games already started, and we can't leave food or unfinished art projects," Minto said. "It's all in my car, or at my house," she added.
Minto said the Jamestown teens have visited two dedicated teen centers in Newport and "are really envious" of what they have seen there. She described facilities with 15 or more computers, a cafe, tutoring sessions after school, and even a "recording and performing studio" at the new teen center at the Newport Boys and Girls Club.
"They really want a place to call their own," Minto said.
The presentation to the council will include the successes the teen center has already had, the level of participation, and the "vision" the teens have for their own place.
Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski, who has taken an interest in the teen group, said that she has been working with Minto and Laura Hosley of the island's Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force on ideas for a permanent teen facility. Szepatowski credited Hosley with coming up with an idea to add a second floor to the front of the Community Center, which so far has been met with positive reactions, the councilwoman said.
"There are too many kids hanging around town at night," Szepatowski said, adding, "We have to get them a place seven days a week." She would like to see a teen center that would be open and available until 10 p.m. each evening, Szepatowski said.
She, Minto and Hosley are working on a grant application to get funds to do a structural analysis of the Community Center to determine if it could support a second floor, Szepatowski said.
Recreation Director Matt Bolles said that while the second floor "is just an idea" at this point, "I think it's a great idea." He noted that the Community Center is within walking distance of the school and the central location makes it very accessible to teens who cannot drive.
The front section of the Community Center is approximately 1,800 square feet, Bolles said, adding that while he is not an engineer, "what I know about this building is that it's structurally sound."
Bolles recalled that many years ago, when the police station was in the recreation center, a plan was discussed to add a second floor for a new, larger police station. Bolles said that there might already be structural data from that proposed project, which was voted down in favor of a separate police station.
'Cafe night' planned
The youth and organizers of the island's Teen Center are hoping to learn about new opportunities for community involvement at the upcoming March 22 "Cafe Night."
Teen co-ordinator Melissa Minto said that she is hoping that several adult organizations will provide brochures or perhaps a spokesperson to attend the event to talk about what services or opportunities they can provide to island teens. She said she is also hoping that youth groups previously unaffiliated with the Teen Center will provide information on clubs, bands, and other activities that teens can join, Minto added.
She said that her teens keep telling her they are bored in the community, and "I want to show them what's out there," to get them involved and interested in being part of their town.
The Cafe Night will take place at the Teen Center, 6 West St., from 4 to 8 p.m.
The cafe will include food and live music and also give teens a chance to visit the resource tables and talk to people who might provide interesting opportunities.
Other teen activities include involvement in the newly-formed Jamestown Youth Council, which is participating in the Newport County Youth Council sessions once a month in Newport. The teens will take part in planning a statewide youth summit, to take place at the end of June, Minto said.
She is working with them to come up with ideas for the summit and "giving them the skills to take their ideas from thoughts to reality," Minto said.
The event will run for three days, and they are currently looking for a location to act as host. Brown University and Salve Regina University are being considered for the summit, Minto said.
Locally, Minto said that the teens are working on a number of upcoming projects like a May "chalk extravaganza" in which everyone will be given a section of pavement on which to create a work of art with sidewalk chalk. They are also working on a proposal to create a town mural project on public property, Minto said.
Anyone with an idea for a teen internship or projects that teens can participate in is asked to call Minto at 741-0562 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.