Making space to support teens

After-school lounge to serve latchkey kids in Harbour Pointe
By Nicholas Johnson | Feb 08, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Karin Lannertone, left, and Chris Baltrukovicz hang out Feb. 2 in the Mukilteo Teen Lounge at Pointe of Grace Lutheran Church at 5425 Harbour Pointe Blvd. in Mukilteo. The two have partnered to create an after-school gathering place for teens, which is set to make its debut from 2:30-5 p.m. Feb. 15. Lannertone is chair of the church’s ministry committee and Baltrukovicz is chair of the Mukilteo Youth Coalition and a student support advocate at Kamiak High School.

The Mukilteo Youth Coalition has partnered with Pointe of Grace Lutheran Church to open to an after-school gathering place less than half a mile from Kamiak High School.

“We’re less than a 10-minute walk from Kamiak, so students can’t use the excuse that it’s too far,” said Chris Baltrukovicz, chair of the coalition and a student support advocate at Kamiak.

The Mukilteo Teen Lounge – a renovated room at the church featuring comfortable furniture, snacks and a coffee bar – makes its debut Feb. 15. Organizers plan to make the lounge available from 2:30-5 p.m. each Wednesday, excluding those that fall on winter and spring school breaks.

“The idea was to create a space where teens would want to come and hang out,” said Karin Lannertone, chair of the church’s ministry committee. “We’ll see how much interest there is and, if there’s a need, we’ll staff it to be open for more days each week.”

The idea arose in October 2016 during a coalition meeting in which Kamiak students participated and showed support for creating a safe gathering space.

“This space has been a dream of ours for a while now,” Baltrukovicz said, noting that its location makes it a convenient hangout for latchkey kids who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. “Rosehill [Community Center] is too far and the library is more associated with doing homework. We wanted to create another option.”

The lounge is part of the coalition’s ongoing effort to build a safety net of support for local teens. The coalition, formerly the Together We Can Task Force, was formed in 2014 in response to several youth suicides.

Of the 19 teens countywide who committed suicide between 2014 and 2016, five were students in the Mukilteo School District.

“Our goal has been to build resiliency after these tragic events,” Baltrukovicz said.

Lannertone, who has worked to solicit community contributions to the lounge, said businesses have so far committed roughly $4,500 worth of products, services and food.

“Everyone I have approached has said yes and has been willing to jump in however they can,” she said. “I think that’s unique to Mukilteo. We’re small enough that everyone can make an impact and be included in this initiative.”

ProGranite Surfaces installed a coffee bar and graphic designer Jeff Robertson created flyers and a banner. Keurig donated a coffee machine, and several local businesses are donating lunches, snacks and coffee, including Papa Murphy's, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Taco del Mar, QFC, Starbucks and Harbour Pointe Orthodontics.

Lannertone said the church’s congregation also pitched in, giving the room a new paint job and purchasing new furniture. In spite of the church’s involvement, she said all are welcome, regardless of faith, race, disability or sexual orientation.

“Yes, it is at a church,” she said, “but there is no religious agenda and we welcome everybody.”

Two volunteer adults will supervise the lounge, she said, adding that all volunteer supervisors have cleared criminal background checks and completed an hour and a half of training in detecting suicidal warning signs and providing appropriate support.

“We hope to build relationships and create connections between teens and adults who care about them,” she said.

Aside from space to study, play games and hangout with friends, Lannertone said activities in and around the lounge would be new each week and might include cooking, gardening, knitting, playing music and even learning jiu-jitsu.

“A big part of this will be listening to what the kids want to do while they’re here,” she said. “We want their input.”

There won’t be a set activity on Feb. 15, but there will be pizza from Papa Murphey’s.

“If you make food, they will come,” Baltrukovicz said. “That’s what I have learned.”

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