By James Dungeon
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Laura Tully, deputy director of The Launch Pad, 302 Grove Ave., 928-227-0758, TheLaunchPadTeenCenter.Org. The Launch Pad is the beneficiary of Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery’s annual charity art sale fundraiser, which runs Nov. 23-Dec. 26, 134 S. Montezuma St., 928-776-7717, ArtsPrescott.Com.]
What is The Launch Pad and where did it come from?
The Launch Pad is a nonprofit teen center that serves kids in the Quad City Area. Courtney Osterfelt started The Launch Pad about five years ago. It came out of the WEB program, Women’s Empowerment Breakthrough, which is a three-day retreat for teenage girls that she started 15 years ago. So, she was doing this weekend every year and the girls kept saying, “Why can’t we do this every weekend?”; “Can’t we have some place where all of us can go all the time?”; and, “Can my brother come?” So, Courtney saw the need for youth involvement in the community. Courtney was my professor at Prescott College and led an independent study with five of us in 2013. We spent the entire semester surveying youth and adults in the community to gauge the need for a teen center and how well it would be received. The next fall, Launch Pad opened. We were renting space out of a tiny little church building, then we moved to a different building, and now we’re renting from Prescott College.
Who does it serve and what kind of programs do you offer?
Throughout all of our programs, we serve well over 1,000 kids each year. In terms of staff size, we went from having three full-time staff members to six this year, with three full-time — Courtney, myself, and Rachelle Newton — and three part-time, thanks to AmeriCorps. Every day, we have drop-in hours after school from 3-6:30 p.m.. That’s just community time for kids. They eat snacks, play games, and do different programs, like one of our art programs, or what have you. That’s our main thing. We serve about 20-30 kids each day who choose to come spend their time with us. We’ve also got school movie nights a few times a month. We have a fall break program — and during the last one we did, we took 12 kids canoeing at Black Canyon for five days. Our spring break program will most likely be backpacking or something fun like that. We’ve also got Project Launch, which is an internship and work-readiness program. For that, teens learn how to handle a job interview, email etiquette, and whatever skills they need to get ready to be placed in an internship over the summer in whatever they’re interested in doing. One kid wanted to learn how to code. One kid was building guns last year. And we’ve still got the WEB program in April every year. We also have different summer camp activities. … We’ve been a non-profit since the beginning. The only things we charge for are the fall and spring break programs and WEB. Everything else is free. And, for anything we charge for, we offer scholarships. We always tell the kids that money’s not an issue if that’s the only thing that’ll prevent you from coming to a program.
Why is The Launch Pad important?
I think the teen center is important because what teens need most, developmentally, is connection. What I see us doing every day is saving lives. For teens who are disconnected, who are struggling, really, what my job is is just to show up and be there for them, to be a loving, caring, steady adult. I tell the same thing to our staff. We’re just people who are there to build meaningful connections and foster meaningful connections for them. … I’ll give you an example. About four or so years ago we were on a retreat at Gold Bar Ranch in Skull Valley. Now, we have teens on our board of directors; we want them to take leadership roles. So, we’re at this retreat and this teen was one of those teens on the board who’d been struggling tremendously. When he started coming to The Launch Pad, he was at the point where he was not leaving his house, struggling with some pretty serious mental health issues. So, at this retreat, he really wanted to go out in the lake in a canoe in the dark. I said OK, sure, we can do this. We’re out there and it’s pitch black and we’re sitting in this canoe — me and two other teens — just sitting and watching the stars. He says out of nowhere, “I’m really happy right now,” and I secretly start crying because I knew he hadn’t been happy and this was a huge moment, to feel connected with his peers and an adult. For him to say he was happy just meant the entire world to me. Moments like that happen several times a year in my job at The Launch Pad. That’s pretty fantastic.
How big a part are daily operations to the mission of The Launch Pad versus retreats and similar programs?
They definitely reach different kids. I don’t want them to read this and take it as a slight, so I’m not sure how to word it, but daily operations reach more kids that don’t necessarily have a community at school, or maybe who don’t have as much support at home. The daily drop-ins have definitely grown into their own community. They make this place their home or their home away from home. Some of the “cool kids” from school end up entering through our internship program or through being on the board — they definitely seek out some sort of leadership position, and that’s an important thing for teens to have available. Teens want to feel involved and want to feel needed. … One of the cool, unique things about The Launch Pad, what sets it apart from other programs, is that the teens really have ownership over this space. I love watching adults come in here. There’s a look on their faces when they realize, “Oh, this isn’t my space.” The teens take active roles with what it looks like. They also have to do their own dishes. We clean up as a community every day. We also do circle every day, which is when, at 4 p.m. every day, everyone stops whatever they’re doing for 10 minutes and we all join up. We share our names, our pronouns, and we do a question. Sometimes the questions are silly, but other times they’re more serious. It’s about getting teens to think more and helping them to get to know each other. We also announce cool programs or workshops in the community. While someone from the staff will greet visitors when they walk through the door, a teen usually jumps up and wants to give a tour of the space. I love that. It shows they have ownership of this space and that, ultimately, they’re in charge of it. It’s a unique space for them where we treat them as equals.
What does it cost to run The Launch Pad?
We have a $200,000 annual operating budget. We apply for grants throughout the year and we have really tremendous community support, like what Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery is doing for us this year.
How did you get involved with Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery’s annual charity show?
Anne Legge approached me about it. She sent me a really nice letter, that she has kids and hope that they can be a part of The Launch Pad when they’re older, and she mentioned this opportunity, and we were selected. Within the last year, it seems like more of these opportunities are springing up for us. We’re at the five-year mark now, and people are starting to realize the impact we’re making. People see we’re sticking around and that we’re a part of Prescott now. … The money from this fundraiser will go to general programming — it’ll go to helping create cool programs for kids and give them more opportunities.
How does art fit into all of this?
We have an art program that happens every week called HUES — Humans Uncovering Extraordinary Styles. They meet up and do art programming every week together. The really cool thing is that art has become big at The Launch Pad in general. We have that specific program, but everyone uses the art room. It’s this beautiful mess of chaos and is so much fun. In fact, one of the ways the community has really come out to support us is by donating art supplies for the teens. The art in the art room is amazing. It’s been a really cool community building thing for them, to put their art up in there. At the Launch Pad we constantly have art on the fridge too. It’s very cute.
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Anne Legge, cooperative member of Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, 134 S. Montezuma St., 928-776-7717, ArtsPrescott.Com, which is hosting its annual charity art sale fundraiser Nov. 23-Dec. 26. This year’s beneficiary is The Launch Pad, 302 Grove Ave., 928-227-0758, TheLaunch PadTeenCenter.Org.]
First off, could you give us a little background on Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery?
Sure. Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery was founded in 1994 and was set up by local artists with the mission of supporting and expanding awareness of art in the community. We like to have artists who are within 50 miles of Whiskey Row. A cooperative gallery gives you a business model that allows the artist to be in the gallery greeting visitors and customers and giving them a personal connection to the art on the walls. That’s important because it gives the feeling of buying locally, of meeting local artists and purchasing their works. We currently have 21 members.
Your holiday art sale fundraiser show is running right now. What’s the history behind that?
Ever since the gallery formed, every year we do the annual holiday fundraising show. The charity art show is our way of giving back to the community that’s given so much to us. We showcase a local nonprofit charity and help bring awareness to their cause and raise money for them. The art is displayed on our guest wall, and the show opened on Fourth Friday, Nov. 23, the Black Friday after Thanksgiving. Every member of the cooperative donates a piece of art for that show. Many times, the charity asks its supporters and patrons to donate artwork, as well. Also, local artists will come and contribute to different fundraising shows. One hundred percent of sales go to the local charity. When the show is taken down at the end of the month, all unsold artwork is given to the charity so they can create their own sale or use the pieces as raffle items to continue generating financial support. In the past, charities have received anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
How is the charity picked?
All of the members get together and some of us nominate charities and give the story behind why we think they’d be a good recipient, then the members vote. The person who suggested the charity that’s chosen becomes the mentor of the show and is liaison between the charity and the gallery. That means they figure out logistics and hanging the show and help with the 4th Friday opening.
You nominated this year’s participant, The Launch Pad. Why’d you nominate them?
I nominated The Launch Pad because, personally, I have children who are about to become teenagers and I think The Launch Pad is offering very valuable services. That includes things like mental health services, community workshops and education seminars for parents and teens, as well as academic tutoring and simply having a place for kids to go after school. I think those things are important, especially now, when Prescott has been plagued by a couple of teen suicides. It’s a horrible situation, and these teens need opportunities to find help and other ways of feeling supported and empowered.
Why have a charity show around the holidays, anyway?
I think it’s always amazing to support local businesses. Buying and giving local art is doubly a gift because then you know the money purchased that personal, handmade item goes to help a local charity. That’s a win-win. When you buy and gift a piece at Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery — we’re open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week, by the way — you’re giving a piece of Prescott to someone. It’s important to share our community, our town, and support local artists and nonprofits. There’ll be a range of pieces and mediums, as well as prices, and I think it’ll be a wide enough spectrum that everyone will find something they can enjoy. It’s important to support the arts in your community; it broadens your horizons and you get to see the ideas and styles of the people who make up our community.
Find out more about the annual charity art sale fundraiser at Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, which runs Nov. 23-Dec. 26, at 134 S. Montezuma St., 928-776-7717, and ArtsPrescott.Com.
Find out more about The Launch Pad, the beneficiary of the aforementioned show, at 302 Grove Ave., 928-227-0758, and TheLaunchPadTeenCenter.Org.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.