March 2022
Sharing the Love
The Launch Pad raising funds for expansion

Since 2014 The Launch Pad Teen Center has been providing a free, fun, safe and educational, albeit smallish place for local teens to go.

Initially occupying a schoolroom at the Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation, with fewer than ten teens attending, the Launch Pad has continued to grow, outgrowing spaces provided by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Arizona and Prescott College. With its diverse staff of administrators, volunteers and teen leaders, and helmed by Executive Director and founder Courtney Osterfelt, the LP now serves about 40 teens on any given weekday afternoon.

It initiated its “Can You See It?” capital campaign three years ago to procure and renovate an underused space behind Captain Crossfit on 6th Street. The realization of this vision will culminate in the group’s annual “Share the Love” fundraiser on March 26, which will also serve as the grand opening of the new 5,400-square-foot facility. Now the LP teens will have a place of their own with plenty of room to grow.

The Launch Pad offers tutoring, workshops and counseling in a vibrant and accepting environment. In the new space LP teens will be able to socialize, study, daydream and chill in a supportive, adult-supervised, youth driven, all-inclusive space, just as they always have, but with a few power-ups.

Upgrades include a stage for musical performance, art studio and workshop, computer lab, and music production equipment installed with the assistance of Raven Studios engineer Dylan Ludwig. The new facility will also include outdoor space, to which the LP teens have not previously had immediate access.

Another major addition will be a cafe operated by LP teens and open to the public. Beyond providing a sustainable revenue source, the cafe will also give teens opportunities in skilled labor, staff management, and experience with the financial aspects of small-business operations. This will be an important component in fulfilling the LP vision for teens to feel prepared to enter the workforce with confidence. Professional mental-health services will also be available at no cost.

The teen years have always been fraught with difficulty: acne, bullies, braces, hormones, school lunches, not to mention social awkwardness. Today being a teen is even more treacherous. Outside the home and work or school, a “third space,” says Osterfelt, is where we as individuals can “have ownership and community.”

Third spaces for adults can be in the form of a park, the gym or even a bar. “There are more spaces for (adults) to just go and have a commons. Our teens don’t have that today. All of the physical commons have been taken away.” “Teens,” says Osterfelt, “have created the network commons, and the network commons is terrifying. The network commons is the internet. It’s Snapchat. It’s TikTok.” “Teenagers neurologically are trying to expand their brains, become independent human beings, learn how to take risks, and live outside their parents. It’s really important that we provide a third space for them.”

While church groups, academic clubs and athletic programs certainly have their value for developing individuals, “those are structured environments. A third space really has to be somewhat unstructured, but safe.” “Unstructured time,” continues Osterfelt, “is where you learn to think creatively, where you do autobiographical thinking, and you daydream about your future. That’s where you learn to problem-solve. Yes, they should play sports, they should do theatre, they should do youth groups at church. And they should also have time where adults aren’t looming over their shoulders trying to manage how they should do everything.” “Of course, people are always asking,” says Osterfelt, “does that mean there are no adults (at the Launch Pad)? Of course there are adults, but the youth voice is centered, and youth leadership is centered.”

The Launch Pad is not only a place for teens to go, hang out and explore their individual interests, but it also provides leadership opportunities and training. Within the organization there are many leadership positions filled by teens, from assisting adults in leading day-to-day programs to being voting members of the board of directors. There is also a Teen Advisory Council composed of teenagers from different schools in the area.

“They all collectively decide,” Osterfelt explains, “on what topics and issues the teen community is struggling with.” The Teen Advisory Council organizes events such as Better Together, where attendees discuss civil discourse and which won the Launch Pad a large grant to continue the campaign.

“We believe every teen has the capacity to be a leader,” says Osterfelt. “We just need to figure out where they’re at on the continuum, and then help foster that. And you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a leader, which so many teens think. We get a lot of introverts that come to the Launch Pad, and it is a place where they’re honored and valued as contributors.” Osterfelt goes on, “We always ask our volunteers to really connect with one thing that they love about being a teenager, because if we can’t connect to the place that we found joy in being a teen, even if it was awful and we would never want to return to it, then how can we connect with our teens and help them find joy in their current state?”

Born in Fort Collins, Colorado and once a troubled teen herself, Osterfelt came 21 years ago to attend Prescott College. For her senior project she organized the first Women’s Empowerment Breakthrough (WEB), a weekend leadership conference for teen girls.

While completing her undergraduate work, Osterfelt became aware of an extremely high teen-pregnancy rate in Prescott and the surrounding communities. Schools at the time were encouraged to center abstinence only in teaching about sex. Compelled, Osterfelt “looked into the research behind why our teen-pregnancy rate was so high, and I was like, well, you know, you can’t ask girls to say ‘no’ to something if they don’t understand self-worth, don’t have community, don’t have connection or self-confidence. Is abstinence-only education really the most effective? I believe the research shows that no, it’s not. And so we talked about sex comprehensively and taught how to set goals, how to set boundaries, self-worth, and awareness around sexual assault.”

When asked about the response, Osterfelt says, “It was so positive! We had 47 girls in the first group, almost all of them on their email forms said, ‘I’m coming next year and I’m bringing my friends,’ ‘ I’m bringing my cousin,’and ‘can you have the WEB Conference every single week?’ So it was clear. We scratched an itch.” The WEB conference has continued as an annual event for 18 years, reaching thousands of girls.

With the success of the WEB Conference, Osterfelt saw the need to reach not only girls, but other teens as well. The idea for the Launch Pad came in 2013. Osterfelt, while teaching at Prescott College and working with other graduate students, started with data. “So they surveyed close to 600 people in the community,” says Osterfelt, “most of whom were teenagers, asking them ‘Do you need it, would you like a teen center, or if there was a teen center, would you go to it? And what would you want there to be?’ That was how we landed on how The Launch Pad should be structured.” The organization now offers access to a number of programs like Project Launch, a series of comprehensive online workforce-readiness workshops. It has also partnered with One-n-Ten to provide LGBTQ+ youth with weekly programming geared toward building self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Funds raised at the coming Share the Love event will go entirely to offer programming in the new space. Since the first year of operation, Share the Love has been hosted by Cody Anne and Michael Yarnes, with wine provided by Mickey Sarkett and Lloyd’s Liquors and food by Barry Barbe of El Gato Azul. The free event will take place on Saturday evening, March 26.

To attend or for more information about Share the Love,

email, or for information

on the Launch Pad Teen Center and its various programs,


Jim Adams is a local audio and video producer.

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