October 25, 2012 in Washington Voices

East Central offers first youth cafe

Organizers want to give neighborhood teens a voice
By The Spokesman-Review
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Heather Wallace and Peggy Slider are the force behind the Youth Community Cafe in the East Central Neighborhood.
(Full-size photo)

Calling all youths

The first gathering of the East Central Youth Community Cafe will be Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the East Side Spokane Library, 524 S. Stone St. To sign up, call or text (509) 991-1798.

In talking to young people 14 to 18 years old in East Central, Spokane Regional Health District’s Peggy Slider heard one common complaint: There is no place to hang out.

“They feel like there’s nothing for them,” Slider said. “There are programs at the community center, but they are often for young kids, and the community center is often closed when the older kids get out of school.”

This Saturday, youths ages 14 to 18 have a chance to meet at the East Side Library for a Youth Community Cafe.

“We hope we get a lot of young people,” said Slider, adding that they are just asking for a call or a text in advance to make sure they have enough pizza for everyone.

Heather Wallace, who lives in the East Central Neighborhood and is the youth facilitator for Spokane Regional Health District’s Neighborhood Matters program, said many teens end up hanging out at the local Fred Meyer.

“They go there to meet their friends,” Wallace said.

Watch Pia Hallenberg talk about this story on KHQ’s News Break

Slider said the event is modeled after a successful adult community cafe that’s been meeting in East Central for a year and a half. Saturday’s cafe is the first youth event, and Slider and Wallace hope to set up a regular schedule for future events.

“We needed to have a standing way for youth to have a voice in their neighborhood,” Wallace said.

Both women said East Central is a diverse neighborhood with large immigrant populations and residents of many ethnic backgrounds.

“We hope we get a large enough group that it will represent many different voices,” Wallace said.

The Youth Community Cafe is participation driven, so there is no preset agenda.

One start-off question for the discussion could be: What does a safe and healthy neighborhood look like to you?

“But we don’t want to focus on everything that’s bad or wrong,” Slider said. “We want to focus on the assets of the neighborhood, too.”

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