Voices: Lisa Fasullo
Director of the Center for Transformative Movement
In light of the recent focus on the prevalence of school shootings, and as someone who cares very much about our community, a mom of three children, and a Boulder resident of 19 years, I would like to open up a conversation with members of the city about a subtle, yet critical situation going on in Boulder.
Unlike before the internet appeared, where schools were mainly where your friends were, many of our tweens/teens are in touch with young people from other middle schools and meet each other through instagram and snapchat and then, naturally, want to meet in person. Making friends and learning to get along with others at this age is a wonderful and natural thing that we, as adults in the community, should want to encourage.
However… what is happening is that many young people, for instance, are meeting before and after school, lots of them, at places like Safeway and on the top of parking garages near Pearl Street – really anywhere where they can hang out, use free internet and type away on their phones together. Unlike adults, who have coffee shops and many other options for spending time working and socializing, most young people do not have adequate money to spend on a regular basis at the stores where they hang out, so are many times asked to leave. They get kicked out of places they enjoy meeting, like the 29th Street Mall, as many of the boys have their skateboards with them, which is not allowed.
Because of our lack of attention to this issue, many young people in our community are basically becoming a generation of loiterers who end up getting the feeling that they are unwelcomed, and not supposed to be wherever they are. They end up sensing the subtle shaming they receive and can internalize these feelings of being unwelcome, exactly at the time in their lives when we want them to feel welcomed, included and engaged.
I personally felt the need for this as a teen in the 80’s and see now, from being a parent to three children, the current and critical need for attention to this overlooked community issue.
It is almost criminal, I’d go as far as saying, that we, as the adult leaders in the community, are not providing teens with with a state-of-the-art youth center using taxpayer money that exists for these types of reasons; not just a well-intentioned back room somewhere that teens have no interest in going to. Our youth need a dynamic place where well-trained staff members would have the opportunity to get to know the young people coming through the doors and could perhaps identify potentially undirected youth in advance of them acting out in explosive, hurtful ways. Instead, staff would be able to suggest ways for these young people to become engaged and hopefully learn what lights them up in life rather than heading down a path of feeling adrift, undirected and isolated.
How can we assist in providing literal spaces for young people in our community to come together in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment?
I have a master’s degree in Health Education from Columbia and master’s degree in Social Work from NYU. I created an in-depth outline of what a successful youth center could look like for my master’s degree thesis. I’d love to share these ideas with those interested in hearing about, and building, something for our young people.
Lisa is the Director of the Center for Transformative Movement. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org