Wanted: teen center, transportation

About 50 people, students and involved community members, came together to discuss ideas for the future of Key West’s teenagers at Key West High School’s library last Wednesday. Hosted by Keys To Be The Change and Department of Juvenile Justice, a committee of students and involved adults, including State Attorney Catherine Vogel, discussed future prospects like a midtown teen center, staffing of the juvenile justice center, and student bus passes for city/county busses. The event was modeled after a similar teen “town hall” in Tallahassee.

From the audience, Samuel’s House’s Elmira Leto mentioned a building on the Boulevard next to the DMV that would be a good space for the teen center – especially since the building was donated by the owner’s family for such purposes. “We’re investigating the space now,” said Heidi Golightly of Keys To Be The Change.

The students also mentioned free bus passes (city and countywide) not only to get to a future teen center, but also to high school games and activities, work, and back home at the end of the day.

Pastor Antonio Magwood, of Bethel AME Church, said the churches are more than happy to reach out to the teenagers in the community with programs like STEP, a strategic empowerment teen program. “Our tourist dollars should be translated into some of these things that need to be funded for students,” he said.

The students also wanted to talk about the lack of vocational education being offered, and possible  apprenticeship partnerships with local businesses like Keys Energy, Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, the City of Key West, and Niles Sale and Service.

“Not all kids are going off to college,” said Bertrand Noel of Keys to Be The Change, a student at Key West High School. “Can we please get vocational education back in school?”

Committee member Beth Barrett said she needed to bring vocal students, like Noel, to Tallahassee with her. “They will listen to you,” she said. “Tallahassee needs to hear your voices.”

 “The kids were really involved with this,” said Rev. Steve Torrence, who moderated the event. What stuck out the most to him was the juvenile detention center in Key West not being staffed. “So they are sending our kids to Miami, Naples, and Orlando,” he said.

Keys To Be The Change is hosting more town hall meetings throughout the Keys this month.


Teen Town Hall members include students Lachele Hassen, Dayana Flores, Gabriela Sonzogni, and Kelsey Morris of the newly formed Keys To Be The Change’s Monroe County Youth Advisory Council. Adults on the committee are Catherine Vogel, Jane Isherwood, Trish Gibson, Beth Barrett, Maureen Kempa, and Genevieve Sabatier.

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