April 14, 2011

Youth Café for High School Students to Open in East County on Friday, April 15

Release ID: 11-089
Release Date: 4/13/2011
Contact: 240-777-7968
From: Council Office

Montgomery Councilmember Nancy Navarro Spearheaded Funding for Pilot Program at East County Community Center

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 13, 2011—The Montgomery County Department of Recreation will hold the first activity of Teen Escape Club Youth Café at the East County Community Center from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15. The Teen Escape Club, a pilot program created with the strong support of Councilmember Nancy Navarro, is open to high school students only. Admission is free.

Teen Escape Club is a place for youth and the performing arts and will feature stage time for area high school bands, singers and performers to rehearse. The idea for a youth café emerged from members of the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) that Councilmember Navarro created in late 2009. Members of the group, comprised of a diverse group of students from high schools located within District 4, told Councilmember Navarro that the District needs more options for positive youth engagement. The students said that they were unaware of places in District 4 for youth to interact with their peers outside of school, and in a positive and safe environment that is appealing and inexpensive. Members imagined a “youth café” where young people could organize and participate in activities that are interesting to their age group.

The youth programming team, facilitated by the Department of Recreation, is comprised of Blake, Paint Branch and Springbrook high school students. They chose the name for the youth cafe. “Escape” has a dual meaning for the teens: “escape” out of their routine and “escape” into art and positive youth engagement. The youth programming team advises the Department of Recreation on the types of programs and activities the youth café should offer and is in charge of the marketing in the three local high schools.

In addition to the musical aspect, an art competition called “So You Think You Can Draw?” will be held as part of the youth café evening and judged by area professional artists. There will also be food and video games. The Center will provide microphones and sound equipment for the stage time rehearsals, and basic materials for the art competition. Students will have an hour to create their sketches. The grand prize for the art competition will be $100; second and third place winners will also receive a prize.

Councilmember Nancy Navarro spearheaded the funding for the youth café pilot program in the East County in order to provide a positive outlet for teens in the area. Two additional youth café evenings are planned for future dates before July 1.

“The Teen Escape Club is part of a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to address the challenges in the East County,” said Councilmember Navarro. “When the members of the YAG told me about the youth café, I immediately started thinking of how this program could be implemented and presented proposals to the Departments of Recreation and Health and Human Services,” Councilmember Navarro added. “I am especially grateful to the Department of Recreation for taking this on and energetically implementing a program that will appeal to teens.”

She was able to find money from a community grant to fund the program.

“While I believe the entire County could benefit from youth cafes, a youth café in the East County area, especially the Briggs Chaney and White Oak areas, would have the greatest potential for positive impact,” said Councilmember Navarro. “The youth café will address the challenging issues that affect these areas by positively engaging youth. Furthermore, it could be the blueprint for other youth cafes throughout the County.”

“Providing recreation opportunities for kids to feel welcomed, included and safe is a core mission of the Department of Recreation and I am very proud of the Teen Escape Club Youth Café,” said Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz. “A particular strength of this program is the creativity and involvement of teens in the planning and implementation of the project. I am very pleased the Recreation Department is able to offer such an amazing program for teens.”

The Briggs Chaney corridor is the No. 1 crime hot spot in the County, and White Oak faces similar challenges. As a result, the County’s Fiscal Year 2012 recommended budget includes funds for additional police officers in this area.

“While policing is important to address the crime issues in Briggs Chaney and White Oak, positive youth engagement deters young people from committing crimes in the first place,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Both approaches go hand-in-hand and must be jointly pursued to completely address the issues affecting these communities.”

Councilmember Navarro has asked the Council’s Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) Committee to consider funding the youth café program in FY12. The PHED Committee has oversight over the Department of Recreation.

“Ideally, I would love to see a youth café in District 4 continued in FY12,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Many youth cafés throughout the nation have had tremendous positive impacts on youth and I hope to see that in Montgomery County.”

For more information on the youth café, contact the office of Councilmember Navarro at 240-777-7968 or the Department of Recreation at 240-777-4984.

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