SACRAMENTO, Calif. — More than two months after Sacramento launched weekly pop-up events for teens, the program is flourishing – and keeping kids and the community safe.
Now, organizers want to ensure this weekly program will continue. Funding is only guaranteed through June.
In response to a handful of brawls at the Arden Fair Mall late last year, community leaders came together to find a solution to give idle teens something productive, positive and safe to do on Friday and Saturday nights.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced an initiative to fund weekly “teen hubs” throughout the community every weekend. It would combine $350,000 from the city’s general fund, plus a $300,000 grant from Comcast, to fund the pop-ups through June 2019. City Council will have to decide whether to keep funding the weekly events.
“Not one dollar is wasted," said Paris Dye with Impact Sac, one of the 22 community partner organizations that put on these pop-ups.
At Impact Sac's pop-up Friday, more than 100 teens gathered at MojoDojo Extreme Air Sports in Sacramento County.
While these free pop-ups are open to any young person, they're specifically located in low-income communities of color. Dye pointed out that many of the teens at MojoDojo Friday couldn't afford to be there if it wasn't a free event.
“There’s nothing for them to do that doesn’t cost, so then they end up getting in trouble," she said.
That's why she wants the city to continue funding the program beyond June.
“You fund us, we’re going to make it happen. I can promise you that!" Dye said. "It’s been an opportunity that’s just out of this world for us.”
She and her fellow Impact Sac leaders survey the kids who attend their pop-ups. She said Impact Sac usually has at least 100 kids per pop-up.
“We ask them, you know, have you been to pop-ups before? Do you feel safe? Do you feel like an adult cares about you at the pop-ups?” she explained. “The kids are having a great time. Their response is like, ‘Can we keep this going?’”
The program launched in February. The community partners host one pop-up every other week, meaning any given weekend has 11 such events.
"It's amazing to see the growth and the amount of impact that it really has on people of the community," said 15-year-old Jaron Heim Jr.
He not only attends one of the other pop-ups, he helps organize it.
"The pop-ups have given me leadership opportunities," he said.
The events are especially important as school wraps up in a few weeks, he said, "because a lot of teens in the summer, they get caught up in the wrong things or they start doing other stuff, but this is really a chance to get them off the street. Free food. The event's always free."
He's co-emceeing and performing at a pop-up Saturday night. It's one of 11 pop-ups happening throughout the city this weekend, which altogether will serve hundreds of teens.
"This is life-changing," Dye said. "This is providing an experience for kids that they will remember when they’re adults."
She paused at one point during the interview, as she grew emotional discussing the positive impact of these pop-ups and what might happen if Sacramento City Council members don't extend the funding.
"No, I don’t want it to stop, I just love what it’s doing for our neighborhoods," she said. "Please don’t take this away from our kids."
This weekend has the following events.
- Family Night, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Discovery High School: 3401 Fong Ranch Road
- Free Sac Youth Pop-Up, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Arcade Community Center: 2427 Marconi Avenue
- Game Night, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Grant West Gym: 1221 South Avenue
- Community Pop-Up, 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., 4625 44th Street
- Mardi Gras in May, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Leataata Floyd Elementary School: 401 McClatchy Way
- Game Truck Night, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Space of Grace Youth Academy: 6489 47th Street
- Free Teen Night, 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Mojo Dojo Extreme Air Sports: 5400 Date Avenue, Suite F
- Murder Mystery Night, exact times not listed, Iu Mien Community Services: 5625 Stockton Boulevard
- Bowling and Lazer Tag, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Country Club Lanes: 2600 Watt Avenue
- Free Movie Night (Avengers: Infinity War), 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Hope Center: 631 Eleanor Avenue
- So You Think You Can Dance Sacramento? Part 2, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fruitridge Community Collaborative: 4625 44th Street
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