About Councilmember Navarro

I serve as the Council Vice-President and the Montgomery County Councilmember representing District 4. I am the chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and also serve on the Health and Human Services Committee.

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April 22, 2011

Youth Cafe Open!!

Youth Cafe' lures students with a positive option in county's high-crime area

by Jeanette Der Bedrosian
Staff Writer-Washington Post
April 20,2011

East County teens now have a place to escape from their routines and into art, music and games — at least for now.

Friday marked the first-ever Teen Escape Club Youth Cafe, the product of Councilmember Nancy Navarro's work with her Youth Advisory Group. Navarro secured a $10,000 county grant to fund three youth cafes, and she is working to make the teen escapes a permanent fixture in the Briggs Chaney area.

The youth cafe is a hangout staged at the East County Community Center in the Briggs Chaney area of Silver Spring, the county's No. 1 crime hot spot, Navarro said. Teens from Blake, Paint Branch and Springbrook high schools can drop in to participate in art contests, music jam sessions and video game competitions, or they can just munch on free snacks.

The idea came from Navarro's Youth Advisory Group, a group of teens who wanted a safe, inexpensive place to interact with their peers outside of school.

"This is an effort to begin to do things that are preventive and proactive," said Navarro (D-Dist. 4). "It's not all about enforcement. I'm really pleased we can take a balanced approach to community building in that particular area of the county."

Navarro said she pushed to secure $10,000 out of a $40,000 county grant given to youth nonprofit IMPACT Silver Spring for the East County project. That amount will fund a total of three programs by July 1.
She included $15,000 for the youth cafe on the upcoming fiscal year's reconciliation list, or a list of programs that are not currently funded but might be saved. It's too late to apply for grant funding for the upcoming fiscal year, she said.

The program is supervised by the Department of Recreation, which helped decide what activities would be at each cafe.

"Teens like to hang out with their friends and be around technology," said Portia Scott, a recreation specialist within the department. "They really like free time and expressing themselves. We got an overwhelming response about being able to express themselves artistically, whether it be music or drawing or painting."

So at the first event, staged from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, teens were able to participate in an art competition called "So You Think You Can Draw?" with a grand prize of $100. The top-rated artists also will be invited to paint a mural in the community center's game room, making it more teen-friendly.

Scott said the recreation department also is looking into the possibility of hosting art classes or disk jockeying classes.

Gabe Albornoz, the director of the Department of Recreation, said the hangouts may seem informal, but they're providing an important safe space that gives teens a positive outlet.

"We're hoping to create a safe but fun and engaging environment for youth in the eastern part of the county, where they can enjoy their time together but do it in a way that's safe and supervised," he said.



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