A Place Where Teens Are Wanted

A few years ago, St. Paul's Rice Street library was attracting a lot of teens, but adults weren't too happy about it. The young people weren't coming for the books or computers. They were just hanging out, often causing problems and intimidating patrons.

Rather than beef up police presence, city leaders talked with teens. What did they want? Why were they there?

"They just said they felt there wasn't interest in the community in them as people," said Grit Youngquist, Healthy Youth Development Program Coordinator for Ramsey County Public Health. "They felt adults were always afraid of them... That adults didn't like them and want them around. They didn't really feel like they belonged."

Youngquist, co-developer of the Wakanheza Project, which tries to make communities more welcoming, recognized an opportunity. Teens wanted a place where they could be with friends, not spend money, and not get in trouble.

Four years later, city leaders and teens will share in a ribbon-cutting event at a new North End Teen Center Monday, June 20, at 11 a.m.

This will be the second teen-led, adult-supported teen center in St. Paul. The first one, called "Canvas", has an arts focus and is located in the Hancock Recreation Center.

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