Crookston Youth Foundation leaders, young and old, try to stay true to initiative's initial mission and vision, while also trying to tailor The Cove youth center's focus and hours to maximize its usage and popularity

    Crookston Youth Foundation’s (CYF) “The Cove” had its soft opening in December 2018, and grand opening in May 2019. The Cove is a “safe, substance free” youth center for seventh through twelfth graders to hang out in after school and during the summer.

    Although the 2018-19 Crookston High School year officially ended on May 29, and summer jobs and activities are in full swing, The Cove continues to maintain its school year hours.

    The current and school year hours of The Cove are Thursday from 3:30-9 p.m., Friday from 3:30-9 p.m., Saturday from 1-10 p.m., and Sunday from 1-8 p.m.

    Chair of the Youth Board Tai Baig and Coordinator of The Cove Nikk Caputo suggested that the hours would be expanding, to The Cove being open Monday through Friday, with the hours still in limbo.

    “We are going to be moving to Monday through Friday” said Caputo. “We are going to be seeking the youth’s perspective on that, when do they think they are going to be using that the most so we can accommodate how they want to use it and what hours they want to use it.”

    Baig also commented on the change of hours. “We’re still trying to think about the weekends, whether we want to have something, but considering that a lot of times families have plans during the weekends, we thought it was a good decision to switch it to Monday through Friday.” Baig said.

    On June 6, Baig remarked that the new summer hours would be implemented “starting next week.”

    Tom Amiot, founder of the CYF, offered a different perspective on summer plans. “We’re now to the point where it’s summer and Sundays are slow, and we’ve got volunteers that signed up for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, we may be adding Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. So we may be open six days a week,” Amiot said. He said that they are re-evaluating by going through volunteer sheets and finding when volunteers are available so that The Cove can be open.

    Amiot added that the process of deciding which hours are best to be open is a “constant revelation.”

    “It’s our desire to be open those days, but I don’t want to commit to it and then have to back off and say, ‘Oh gee, sorry but we can’t do it’” Amiot said.

    In order to figure out the summer hours, Caputo mentioned using social media to connect to students.

    “We’re going to be talking to kids out there and probably putting out a poll on our social media to see when they would use it the most” Caputo said.

    The Crookston Youth Foundation has a website, https://crookstonyouthfoundation.org/, an Instagram, thecovecyf and a Facebook page, The Cove - CYF.

    The Facebook page is the only page that clearly displays the current hours and posts updates to hours that The Cove is open.

Junior high access

    The fluctuating times and days have led to confusion for younger students who don’t use Facebook, or for young people who simply don’t think Facebook is cool anymore because their parents and grandparents use it. In this age of Snapchat and Instagram, a lot of younger kids don’t even have a Facebook account.

    Late in the morning on the day after school ended in Crookston, May 30, a gaggle of about ten seventh and eighth grade boys were waiting outside the doors to The Cove, hoping it would open soon.

    The boys all excitedly talked over each other, offering their opinions.

    “They should have a sign on the door with the hours,” one boy said. “A light up open sign,” another said. “Yeah, like an open sign like China Moon!” a third added, pointing across the street.

    The boys had assumed The Cove would be open, as it was now summer.

    “It’s our second time checking today,” one of the boys said. “I’ve checked like three times in the past two weeks, and I don’t live in town,” said another.

    Along with confusion about the hours came confusion about when they were allowed to be in The Cove. Ninth through twelfth grades are allowed during all the times that The Cove is open, but the seventh and eighth graders are only allowed during certain times of the day.

    The boys all spoke at once as they tried to puzzle it out. “It’s only open for our grade like once a week,” one said. “It’s just certain times,” said another. “We only get to go for a couple hours,” they added.

    In actuality, The Cove is open for seventh and eighth graders every day that it is open from 3:30-6 p.m. Although their hours are limited, the hours that they are allowed are also the busiest times for The Cove.

    “The seventh and eighth graders, their time slot is our busiest hours.” Caputo said. “Our busiest hours are probably 3:30 to 7.”

    The seventh and eighth grade boys hanging outside of The Cove like the idea of the place, but wished that it would be open for longer hours, and more often for them.

    “I wish it was like open a lot of times and when we go there our friends are there and we can actually hang out,” one of the boys said.

    “This is like the only thing to do in Crookston. There’s nothing to do here.” added another.

    When asked about the limited hours at The Cove for junior high students, Baig and Amiot commented on the difference in maturity between junior high and high school students.

    “We really think that there is a maturity difference,” Baig said. “For example, if you are here and want to watch a movie with your friends, or you’re sitting there playing a video game or some ping pong, you don’t want some seventh or eighth grader hanging around. Just like in your normal life if you’re studying or something you wouldn’t want some seventh or eighth graders playing Fortnite or something.”

    “We don’t want to hinder anyone from coming here because they are worried about noise or stuff from the seventh and eighth graders,” Eliza Meyer, secretary of the Youth Board, said.  

n.Vision

    Amiot also noted the maturity difference, but focused more on the primary function of the CYF and “n.Vision,” which is a program geared toward high school students.  

    n.Vision is a career development and mentoring program that connects interested students to careers in Crookston. The program’s vision is to “interact with community leaders and businesses to promote local employment opportunities to develop a future workforce and increase retention of Crookston youth,” according to the CYF’s informational brochure.

    The program works by connecting students to mentors in town, and providing career and life skills to students.

    “What we do when working with the students is find out what their interest is, and then line them up with someone in town who is in that trade or profession,” Amiot explained. “We’ve already lined up one with an attorney, and a second one wants to visit with an attorney, and I‘ve arranged it, he simply has to make the call and go there. A third one wants eventually to own a trucking mechanic shop, and he’s being mentored by Best Trucking (Best Used Trucks).”

    Life skills are also an important part of the n.Vision program.

    “Another thing that’s going to be really big for us is programming,” Caputo said. “We do have a commitment from the Crookston Fire Department, who is going to be holding a free class for the kids, to get them CPR certified and AED certified.”

    “One of our first sessions is going to show people how to open up a bank account,” Amiot said. “Credit cards, what do you look like when you’re renting an apartment.”

    Both Baig and Amiot talked about the restrictions that the mission of n.Vision places on the mission of The Cove, specifically in regards to the age restrictions.

    “We want this to be more senior high focused.” Baig said. “And that goes with our n.Vision program, which we can’t really give to 7th and 8th graders.”

     “All the emphasis has been on The Cove,” Amiot said. “I added that only so we could have the students together in a group, and we would be able to deal with them better with the career planning. And then it came about that OK, it’s a safe harbor. And that’s fine, but [n.Vision] is the primary purpose. I’ve worked five years trying to get something like this started.”

    Amiot is the driving force behind the CYF; he provided the seed funding to get it off the ground. The initiative continues to run on donations from the community matched by Amiot himself.  

    “We got a donation from Riverview Recovery for a large sum, and we made a lot of money from our crepe feed,” Baig said. “We’re still looking for donations, but we do have a lot of donors.”

Crepes coming?

    The third component of the CYF is the planned crepe cafe, to be called “The Seed” or “The Parlor.” The non-profit business would help to provide funds to make The Cove self-sustainable.

    Crepes and ice cream were served for a free-will offering during the grand opening of The Cove on May 5. The event helped to raise money for the CYF and give a taste of the planned crepe cafe.

    “We actively talk about it,” Caputo said. “The thing to get people excited for it was the grand opening doing the crepe feed. It’s in progress. It’s still in progress. I think the community really enjoyed the crepe feed.”

    However, Amiot said that the plan to build the cafe is no longer imminent, as most new businesses fail and the new crepe cafe would not be guaranteed to succeed.

    Baig also noted that the focus is not currently on the planned crepe cafe.

     “Right now we’ve been really focusing on The Cove and n.Vision, which are our two programs. The Seed - probably in the future,” Baig said.

    The Cove is run by volunteers, adults who supervise students during open hours. Currently, The Cove has about 45-50 volunteers who are poised to provide their services, having had background checks done.

    Volunteers are only asked to commit to minimal hours, to make it easier for numerous adults to do a little each month to help The Cove.

    “We only ask for 3 hours a month, period,” said Amiot.

    The Cove is always looking for more volunteers, and their goal is to be open seven days a week.

    “We do want to be open seven days a week, and we’re getting closer to that by adding in a fifth day now,” Caputo said.