A new teen center, OSpace4Teens, will soon be unveiled, with an open house scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at Open Space for Arts & Community.
The event will include food, a DJ, a photo booth and activities for teens. Open Space’s new youth program coordinator, Veronica Aristeo, will also be on hand to listen to others’ visions for the space and share a calendar of the youth center’s first activities, which will begin to roll out on Oct. 12 with a dance party. Weekly drop-in hours at the center, also starting in October, are planned for Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
OSpace4Teens is an almost 1,500 square-foot space, located with the cavernous community space, that includes a recreation area with ping pong and foosball, a pool table, piano, and open art studio and a lounge. Activities this fall and in 2020 will include dance parties, opportunities for advocacy, fundraisers and teen causes, and collaborative events with other island organizations serving youth.
According to Aristeo, OSpace4Teens will immediately partner with UMO Ensemble, Journeymen, SisterHood and Seattle’s renowned Lambert House to host drop-in days at the teen center. Wednesday drop-in activities will be focused on LGBTQ youth, with SisterHood and Journeymen events on Thursdays. On Fridays, UMO Ensemble will offer a free gym day at Open Space in conjunction with the teen center.
All of the teen center’s activities will be either free or based on a sliding scale admission, with no one turned away for lack of funds, said Aristeo.
Aristeo, 30, is originally from Seattle but has worked in youth-focused jobs in a number of places during the past decade. Most recently, she was employed in the Bay Area at Larkin Street Youth Services, an agency that serves homeless and transitional youth ages 12-25. She has also worked with youth in outdoor education, youth empowerment camps and crisis hotline programs in Seattle and New Orleans.
Since her hire at Open Space in May, she said she met with teens and youth-centered organizations, devising partnerships and seeking input on Vashon’s needs for teens — which she said are great for many teens including LGBTQ and other young people exploring alternative education paths outside the public schools.
“I did a lot of reaching out to youth all summer long to find out what people want this to be,” Aristeo said. “I spoke to high school counselors and art teachers, folks at the DoVE project, StudentLink and FamilyLink, and went out to Strawberry Festival with clipboards and surveys, and stopped every teen I saw.”
According to Aristeo, OSpace4Teens is all about making youth voices heard.
“Bring us your vision, and let’s see how we can make it happen,” she said.
More information about exact activities, times and dates will soon be posted at openspacevashon.com and on the youth center’s Instagram, OSpace4teens.