In an effort to make Sebastopol a more teen-friendly place, several local organizations and businesses have joined together to create the Sebastopol Teen Club, a virtual hub of local events, classes and swag, designed especially for teens.
Led by the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, the Sebastopol Teen Club doesn’t have a physical location. It lives online at sebteens.org. Teens join the club online and then receive text notifications of upcoming events and opportunities.
Participating organizations include the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, Sebastopol Regional Library, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Ceres Community Project, The Laguna Foundation, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Ives Pool and Rialto Cinemas.
“Our program partners submit their activities for teens that are in the afterschool timeframe and get on the calendar,” said Community Center Director Cordelia Holst. “Then we have a database on the backend at the community center where teens sign up for free to be a part of the club, and then once a week on Monday, we send them a text message saying, ‘Hey, here are the things that are going on.’”
The Sebastopol Teen Club launched last summer, funded by $7,000 from the city of Sebastopol and a $15,000 grant from the Gravenstein Health Action Chapter, which in turn is funded by your taxes to the Palm Drive Health Care District.
The primary organizers of the club are Holst, teen librarian Rosalie Abbott and Tasha Beauchamp of Cittaslow, who manages the online calendar and oversaw the development of the website. Lindsay Sigrist, who works for the Community Center, manages teen club partnerships and oversees the database and text campaign.
“We’ve been working together as a team to make this vision become a reality, and it’s been progressing slowly but surely,” Abbott said. “It feels really great to have a vision of making Sebastopol a teen-friendly city. There are so many opportunities for teens all around town, and consolidating them all into one place so that teens and families can just look at one website to see everything is ideal. The whole point is finding more ways to support teenagers and their experience in our town and provide positive opportunities for them.”
What kinds of activities are available?
The Rialto Cinemas has been doing free movie nights for teens (sometimes with free pizza). Ceres provides volunteer opportunities. There’s also a loosely facilitated skateboarding time five days a week at the Sebastopol Skate Park, overseen by skateboarder Tony Manfre. Right now, most of the sebteens.org calendar is taken up by classes and events for teens at the library, including Dungeons and Dragons and AP Study Group, both of which have proved popular, according to Abbott.
Sounds great, right? So what’s the problem? Despite Abbott’s strenuous Instagram efforts, too few teens seem to know that the Sebastopol Teen Club even exists.
That’s why the Community Center is in the midst of hiring two teen ambassadors for the program — Analy junior Daniel Judd and another student (who couldn’t be reached before press time) — who will help spread the word about the Teen Club at school and community events.
Judd first learned about the teen classes at the library last year when Abbott came and did a presentation at his English class about everything that the library had to offer teens.
“I was really inspired,” he said, “but I was also like, ‘Wow, we have so many cool things at the library that I had no idea about.’”
He began volunteering at the library and even co-developed some of their teen programs, like the AP Study Group.
“It’s been really inspiring to work with the library, and I feel like they really listen to what matters to me,” he said.
Judd said he’ll be working with Abbott to revamp the Sebastopol Teen Club Instagram page to make it more appealing to teens and more representative of the teen experience in Sebastopol. And he’s looking forward to spreading the word about the club.
“There are all these super awesome things that we already have,” he said of the teen club. “We just need more people to sign up.”
In addition to teen ambassadors, Holst said they’ve also kicked up the marketing for the program, doing ads on Facebook (targeting the parents of teens) and putting signs up around downtown and near Analy and Brookhaven.
“We’ve been warned by Chops (a teen program in Santa Rosa) that teen clubs can be slow to get going,” Holst said. “It’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing: you can’t attract members until you’ve got a big array of programs, but you can’t fill those programs until you’ve got enough members.”
The Sebastopol Teen Club has got the programs. Now all it needs is more teens.
Find out more at sebteens.org.