SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As a response to two incidents involving groups of teens causing mass commotion and shutting down Arden Fair Mall in December, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to provide places for young people to hang out on Friday nights.

Steinberg made the announcement Monday afternoon at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day diversity fair at Grant Union High School in Del Paso Heights.

Steinberg wants to spend $650,000 to support weekly “teen hubs” from Feb. 8 and through June, where young people can safely gather and play games, listen to music and participate in other positive activities. He said the plan includes at least 10 teen hub locations throughout Sacramento, every Friday night.

“On most Friday nights in Sacramento there are only one or two of those kinds of events in the entire city,"  Steinberg said in his announcement. "That’s not nearly enough."

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In the immediate response to Arden Fair Mall incidents, community stakeholders who recently met with Steinberg held 14 pop-up teen events the weekend of Jan. 4 through 6. An estimated 1,400 teens attended, which prompted this more fully fleshed out initiative.

“These weekend events should be the norm, not the exception,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he will make a mid-year city budget request on Feb. 5 to pull $350,000 for the initiative from the general fund. Comcast is donating the remaining $300,000.

Alisi Fifita, 14, an eighth grader at the Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy, attended a diversity fair with her friends who all agreed that having a place for teens to hang out on Friday nights would be a good thing.

“Things that get kids off from getting into trouble,” Fifita said. “Kids end up going to the malls and stuff, like, starting trouble, and that’s what ends up happening… Just get people off of the street, get people out of trouble.”

One of her friends chimed in, “That’s why we have after-school activities. I feel like if the community came together and we have, like, one Friday night event, it would make this neighborhood a whole lot better.”

Fifita and her friends said they want the teen hubs to have good music, free food and games to play.

The teen hubs will be a coordinated effort between the city, Comcast, Sierra Health Foundation and other community-based organizations.

We spoke with teens from Voice of the Youth, an organization that works with adolescent and teens through mentoring and providing support services, on what they thought of the community pop-ups.

They said usually on the weekends they hang out with friends and do sports.

"I feel like the pop-up events are very, very needed because I know growing up, I didn't have much to do on the weekends," said Cheyenne Williams, a 17-year-old from Sacramento Charter High School.

Markus Smith, a 17-year-old from Laguna Creek High School agreed, adding that it should be just kids at the events, "but adults come just have a good time and bring the community together."

In addition to events, the students want to see more mentoring opportunities for people their age.

"Some people, if you're going on the wrong path, a mentor could really help you and get you where you need to go," Smith said.

Damaje Muhammad, a 17-year-old from Valley High School said teens need more support and guidance from adults. "I feel like support, talking to people my age, and older we hear a lot of stuff and we see a lot of stuff. And just to talk to someone we trust is very helping."

Williams said she's had mentors most of her life, including Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius. "He was my first mentor. I've had him since I was 7 — my sisters age. And so growing up he's always been the role model I needed."

The students say mentoring has helped them stay focused on their dreams.

'When I get older and settle in and be successful I feel like I wanna come back to Sacramento and help my community like I wanna do now," Muhammad said.

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