Youth Commission seeks space

by Town Reminder

Youth Commission seeks space
Local businesses, offices encouraged to reach out

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – The Youth Commission is looking for a place to call home outside of school.
Having since established itself within the past year, the Youth Commission has gown into a substantial group of nearly 20 youths. Currently, the Commission can meet in the South Hadley High School Library where Youth Commission Director Adam Roberts’ office is located. But the school is not generally open for long after the end of school, on weekends or even at all during the summer. For Youth Commission members looking to congregate in order to work on projects or brainstorm, they have been turning to one another’s homes as meeting places.
“We’re really lucky to have the high school,” said Roberts. “That’s definitely a space to see a lot of people. We’re just trying to start a conversation,” he said of other location options.
When polled, students said they would like a space of which they can take ownership, a space that is safe and free.
Within this wanted space, members would like to be able to collaborate on Youth Commission projects and plans. But they would also like to share the space, offering movie nights for students of all ages, perhaps certain classes, a health and wellness program, open mic nights and even homework help. The space would be bustling with positive, safe activities. It would become a destination for youths looking to connect with one another in healthy, constructive ways.
“It’s something that a number of Youth Commission members have been really interested in,” said Roberts. “We’re just starting the process of talking about it and envisioning what it could look like. It wouldn’t have to be a permanent solution.”
In conversations with the members about the sought after-space, Roberts found the youths are interested in taking responsibility over the space and fostering positive youth development with empowering activities. The Youth Commission members would like to offer specific programming regarding health and wellness and provide connections to other community resources.
“This could also look like a community center, if a few groups in town want to collaborate, ” said Roberts. South Hadley once had a similar center, called the Teen Center, which was located at St. Patrick’s Church. The Youth Commission would be interested in bringing something like that back.
“In terms of what we’re looking for is a free space, a safe space, a space that is for, and with, youth,” said Roberts. “I think there are definitely spaces around town, but very few that fit those three criteria.”
The Youth Commission is asking interested businesses or individuals with surplus retail space to get in contact with them. “We’re just interested right now in exploring possibilities for more youth spaces in town that fit those criteria. We’d love to work with a business or local organization that wants to help make this a reality,” he said.
South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie and member of the Adult Task Force for the Youth Commission said “it might be advantageous for business owners to donate some vacant space for the Youth Commission to utilize,” as it has been suggested to the Youth Commission they gain non-profit 5013C status. “There are a few places around town that could be used,” he said. Any agreements between a donating space owner and the Youth Commission would require adult agreement, which would most likely fall upon the Adult Task Force.
For now, the Youth Commission has been allotted a space in town hall, where there is more access during the day following the end of school. At the very least, they can plan projects in that area.
Interested space owners can contact Roberts at aroberts@southhadleyma.gov or the Selectboard via email at selectboard@southhadleyma.gov or by phone at (413) 538-5017 ext. 135.
The Youth Commission meets once every two weeks, currently at Mount Holyoke College. The Youth Commission Adult Task Force holds meetings once a month in the South Hadley Police Station Community Room. Their next meeting is March 21 a t 7 p.m.

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