New diggs, new director and plans to help Outer Cape youth get on track
By Bethany Gibbons
After a couple of years in limbo, the Nauset Juice Bar has sprung back to life with a new director, a fresh location in Eastham, and an invigorated approach to providing area teens with safe, sober options. Operated by the Nauset Together We Can Prevention Council, the NJB Youth Center hopes to tap positive community resources to provide programming that not only keeps teens from going down the wrong path, but also allows them to find meaningful endeavors to help them soar.
Star power on board
Nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Sarah Burrill will kick off the community-building phase of the month-old program with an open jam session tonight from 6 p.m. until they close at 11 p.m. “We’re trying to change their thinking a little bit,” Burrill said. “We want to get them thinking about Eastham as a place to go. There are some great teenage musicians on the Cape and we want to really give them an outlet.” With guest appearances by Patty Larkin and Greg Greenway on her most recent album, ‘If By Chance,’ and a well-received history of fun, energetic, and enlightened performance, Burrill is sure to bring something special to the group.
Burrill’s dedication to the Juice Bar runs deeper than a one-time gig. After establishing her Outer Cape Living Arts Youth Empowerment group in 2007, she became involved with Together We Can, and soon their efforts became fused. “I was trying to start something to empower the kids and connect them with community resources that they might not have had access to; to open them up to experiences they may not have had a chance to try,” she said.
Helping kids make the right decisions
Burrill echoed the mission statement of the Together We Can group, which focuses on preventing young people from getting involved in drugs and alcohol. “The neurochemical system in the brain is still developing until you’re 25,” she said. “The younger you start using alcohol or drugs, the more likely you are to become addicted. We want to allow them to develop that curiosity about who they really are without all that other stuff playing a role. It’s important to keep that mind- and behavior- and perspective-altering stuff out of there. Prevention is so important.”
“I would really like to see the community become more of a presencethere [the Juice Bar],” said Burrill. “Even the older residents can play a role, and wecan break down those ageist barriers with consistent involvement.”
Forming healthy bonds with adults who “talk to them like they’re people” is critical in connecting with teenagers, according to Burrill. “How the adults respond is crucial,” she said. “When a teen comes to an adult and admits that they got wasted last weekend, silence is not the answer. No response simply condones the behavior. You have to start a dialog, to say ‘That really concerns me and here are the reasons why.” Community involvement in the Juice Bar can be a starting point to opening up that dialog. “I would really like to see the community become more of a presence there,” said Burrill. “Even the older residents can play a role, and we can break down those ageist barriers with consistent involvement.” She has a vision of a beneficial and enriching community center. “While banks and donors may ask questions about how much profit the program brings in, the real profit is having teens develop into happy and healthy adults who contribute to the community. You can’t really put a price on that.”
The benefit of youth programs
It is inevitable that teenagers will attempt to distance themselves from their family unit as they carve out the identities they will carry with them into adulthood. Burrill makes a strong argument for easily available programs for young adults. “They’re trying out different identities as they progress through the individuation process,” she said. “They’re going to attach to whatever is screaming the loudest. I hope that there’s something about the Juice Bar that’s making some noise. We want to help them make more effective choices – to grow and expand their choices rather than take them away.”
New director, new diggs
“My main goal coming into this is to bring in a good mix of kids. We want to do everything from rock climbing to concerts.” - Damion Clements, Juice Bar Director
Director Damion Clements knows a great deal about the hazards of misguided choices. He operated a 28-day outward bound program, known as Homeward Bound, at the DYS facility in Nickerson State Park that also houses a long-term residential program and short-term lock-up detention for young offenders. Bringing a Bachelor of Arts degree in recreation management to the table, he hopes to involve teens in a variety of activities. “My main goal coming into this is to bring in a good mix of kids,” he said. “We want to do everything from rock climbing to concerts.”
Clements applauded the generosity of Barbara Niggel, owner of Willy’s Gym, who agreed to a five-year lease for the 1,200 square-foot building in front of Willy’s World in Eastham free of charge, except for utilities. He plans to use the spacious and diverse gym facilities for programs. “That was a big part of having the Juice Bar here,” he said. A formal grand opening concert for the Juice Bar is in the planning stages and Clements hopes to put it together within the next couple of months. Willy’s larger space will allow a big crowd to celebrate.
The Juice Bar benefits students of the Nauset region, as well as students of the Cape Cod Technical High School. It is funded by the Nauset Together We Can group, private contributions, and funds from the towns of Orleans, Eastham, Brewster and Wellfleet. Concerts and other big events will be open to kids of other school systems, as long as they fall within the age range of 14- to 19-years-old.
While many of the program participants can drive themselves to Eastham, Clements identified transportation as one of their biggest hurdles. “I’m working with Flex-bus to try to make the Juice Bar a stop,” he said. “There are a lot of kids we’re not reaching because they can’t get here.” Making the location a stop on the Flex route may require an area for the bus to pull off the highway and a bench for those waiting for a ride.
The Nauset Juice Bar is located at 4730B Route 6 in Eastham (directly in front of Willy's Gym). The hours are Thursdays 6pm-9pm, Fridays 6pm to 11pm and Saturdays from 6pm-11pm. The Juice Bar is a WiFi location.