Jennifer Jukanovich spoke last night at the North Beacon Hill Council meeting. She described something she and her husband Dano had been a part of over the past several years. As the frequent summertime congregation of teens around the C&C Valero station on Beacon Ave. began to become an issue with neighbors, they decided to do something: Thursday evening BBQs. All teens invited. Free burgers and hotdogs. Sometimes movies projected onto the fence around their home at 18th & Stevens. It was declared a safe corner– one where personal (or gang-related) altercations were not allowed, but where everyone was welcome. Including, recently, a uniformed police officer, Eric Sano. His presence was initially quite controversial, but he’s become inspirational to some teens who previously didn’t know what they wanted to do.
The Jukanoviches have provided a place for these kids where they’re wanted, where they’re included, a place where they can feel safe. However, Dano and Jennifer may be moving away very soon, for three years, to Rwanda. She came to the NBHC meeting to let other people know what can be done, and share one way they’ve done it. And to encourage the BBQs to continue next summer, possibly without them.
And she stressed one piece of advice for people concerned about the teens encountered in their neighborhood: “Learn their names.”
Similar sentiments on a larger youth-involvement scale were expressed by the second guest speaker, Mariana Quarnstrom, president of the Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council (and yes, Mrs. Dr. Quarnstrom!). She shared her stories with several teen and youth programs out there, and the difficulties many of them struggle with to stay in operation.
She offered similar advice: Don’t drop your head and race past as if they didn’t exist. Disarm them with a “hello.”
Both firmly agreed: Get involved with teens. Let them know that someone cares.
Update: Amie of North Beacon Hill just posted a notice for the March For Youth planning meeting to be held tonight at 7:00 pm in the Rainier Vista Neighborhood House Paul Allen Room (4410 29th Ave S).