After years of work, more than 100 people celebrated the grand opening for the teen cafe, The Garage, on Saturday, Sept. 22, at their location on First Avenue Southeast.
The Garage is the product of years of work on behalf of student volunteers and the community group, The Garage, formerly known as the Issaquah Teen Cafe, and Friends of Youth, the fiscal sponsor of The Garage.
Director KayLee Jaech described the The Garage as a place that provides “a safe after-school drop-in place for teens — where they can meet with their friends, access programming and services needed.”
In April, the Issaquah City Council unanimously approved a lease agreement to allow The Garage and Friends of Youth to operate the teen center out of the city-owned building at 235 First Ave. SE. The building had been previously used by the city’s Park and Recreation department and as a storage space. The city had planned to move staff out of the building before receiving the request from The Garage, so it was a perfect fit.
The Garage staff and volunteers have been working on renovating the building since June.
The building itself has two offices, a conference room where students can work on group projects, a coffee bar, and a stage will be installed in the coming weeks.
Jaech said The Garage Committee had been working on the project for more than two years. The program is modeled after Redmond’s Old Fire House Teen Center, and it will have various teen-led programs and activities every week.
The Garage will have a drop-in counselor from Friends of Youth who will be accessible for anyone who comes by the teen center. But, for the most part, every program will be teen led.
“We are hoping (the drop-in counselor) will start in October, then it’s really up to the students as far as what programming happens,” Jaech said. “That’s our philosophy of The Garage — our staff is ready to help encourage and empower them, and support them in creating programs.”
Alongside Jaech, Barbara de Michele is the business manager. They are joined by two part-time program coordinators and are still looking to hire two more.
M. Haynes, one of the members of the Teens for Teens steering committee and a student at Gibson Ek High School, explained that the teen volunteers and committee members really helped form The Garage. From furniture choice to room usage, the space was crafted by the people who will use it.
“The really great thing is everything about the teen cafe — the way it’s laid out. The things that are here are here because the teens said this is what teenagers want. This is what we want. This is what our friends want,” Haynes said. “This is going to be a place we can go if we have an idea, if we have a problem, if we are going through tough times or good times. We can get support, celebrate with our friends, make new friends, try new things.”
Jaech said The Garage will be open 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The hours may extend until 10 p.m. on days when evening events are scheduled.
More information on the Garage can be found on their website at www.issaquahteencafe.org.