It’s 3:30 p.m. Yellow school buses congregate in front of the police station on 4th, and kids pour out. At first, the groupings seem fairly standard: paired off by age and gender, kids laugh and push each other around as they head off in different directions.
Then, a number of them become a herd headed in the same direction, now grouped as an amalgamation of boys and girls from elementary to middle school. They stay separate, but move as one and meld with the high-schoolers towards the familiar green-framed doors of The Carmel Youth Center. And there’s a reason kids look forward to their time here.
Kids check in and hit the snack bar, spending a few bucks on Ballpark-style food or opting for the free stuff: fresh fruit or olive oil-cooked popcorn. Now, this isn’t the library, and they don’t pretend to be: this place gets loud. But they do encourage academics, and have an on-site tutor and computers with priority given to those working on homework. Paired with incentives for getting their homework done, they’ve seen a big increase in kids using this time to work—and shutting off the Xbox and Wii for the first hour helps, too.
The center has a newly renovated backyard area for physical play, Jiu-Jitsu classes, a movie theater, and a game room they’re currently renovating. They create a safe place for kids after school, and best of all, make it a place they look forward to going. But they don’t stop there. The Youth Center’s vision is to develop young minds and citizens…and new artists.
This November, 65 Degree Magazine and The Carmel Youth Center teamed up to host an art contest for youths aged 8-18. The theme was “Carmel Inspired,” and the judges saw more than 40 entries, which ranged from crayon drawings, pencil, charcoal, ink, acrylic, oil, and watercolors, to jewelry, mixed media, and digital art pieces. Individual prizes in the form of gift cards were awarded in each age group.
The New Artist Prize was awarded to Alexis Pine, age 9, who received four behind-the-scenes tour passes for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, donated by Steve and Sona Dennis.
Alex Weber, age 15, won the Teen Artist Prize, a $100 gift certificate to Basil, compliments of Chef Soerke Peters.
The grand prize, an iPad Mini provided by Greenscape California, was awarded to Skylar Jackson, age 10. Local judges were selected, including Manny Espinoza of Crema Creative Media,Michele McDonald of Dawson Cole Fine Art, and Steve Dallas of Carmel-by-the-Sea City Council.
The participants were excited for the opportunity to show off their work, and because of the positive response, the Youth Center hopes to host another art contest next year.
“Art is important to the city of Carmel, and having a contest like this is awesome,” said Ernest “E” Griffin-Ortiz, Executive Director of the center. He mentioned other artistic endeavors of the center, including a monthly open mic night and music lessons during the week, and hinted at a new art program the center plans for spring which would help connect young, aspiring artists with professional artists in the Carmel community.