A group of St. Louis Park (SLP) High School students have been devoting time and hard work toward leaving something meaningful for those who follow. The Nest SLP will be a coffeehouse intended to give teenagers a space for art, learning and community.
“A little over two years ago, some students and I got together and we had this idea,” SLP Nest board member Lukas Wrede says. “We wanted to start this youth-centric place; a safe environment to go before or after school.” Lukas is now a senior at SLP High School and the last original board member.
The students envision a space to gather beyond the clubs and cliques inside the school. In addition to employing students in the coffeehouse, board members are hoping teens will use the space to engage with their peers through art exhibitions and more.
“I hope it brings a feeling of community,” says junior and student board member Libby Ramsperger. “There are so many different cultural groups, ethnic groups … people could be exposed to that and develop more understanding towards people.”
“The vision for The Nest is different for everyone, and we want to stick to the same goal‑the goal being [creating] a place where they can bring their visions,” says Lukas.
Apart from becoming a 501(c)(3) and creating a business plan, fundraising has been a main concern to the students, who are working toward opening in September. According to Lukas, the board is projecting an expense of $100,000 for their first year, including rent and staffing. They’re hoping to find a general manager for the space shared with Muddy Paws Cheesecake.
The city has been supportive throughout the endeavor and is working with the board to create a grant to fund the project. Parents have been equally invested in the vision.
“I care deeply about creating a place for decompression moments. There’s a lot of anxiety in society, and we owe it to them to create a space where people can come together,” parent Julia Schmelzer says.
As parent spokesperson for SLP Nest, Schmelzer hopes she can make the space happen for the 2,000 middle and high school students. She’s one of the members of the parent minority on the board, the result of a bylaw created by the students to insure more student impact on decisions.
Lara Cleveland is another parent who’s lending her talent to the SLP Nest board. With her grant-writing skills and her husband contributing media skills, she’s hoping to create a space students can make their own.
“Kids are more and more scheduled. We’re fostering a place where they can express themselves and practice ethics in a place outside of school,” says Cleveland.
With a few months to go before SLP Nest opens, students have already found their voices. “I’ve learned to present, and I’ve presented to the Hennepin County board,” says Libby. “To work with people and step up … I’ve been given those opportunities.”
“It’s been really heartening for me. I’ve been impressed with their thoughtfulness,” says Schmelzer.
Keep an eye out in the Walker neighborhood for SLP Nest’s grand opening on September 4th. After years of learning, the students have a few things to teach us.