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For the week of December 6 through 12, 2000

Romancing the Bean

Café is teen hangout

Express Staff Writer

It’s 8 p.m. and the parking lot in front of the Silver Creek Alternative School in Hailey is full. The lights are on; somebody is home.

A lot of young people are home.

Here are a few of the county’s young hanging at the Bean. Front row, left to right: Trista Ballou, John Kremer, Lacey Peterson, Lindsay Mollineaux and Kali Selner. In back are Christian Perez on the left and Audrey Hassall. Express photo by Willy Cook

Welcome to Romancing the Bean, a café for teens looking for an alternative to hanging out in front of Atkinsons’ or in a car out cruising.

Given a casual glance, this café for the young appears to be a method for keeping idle hands from concocting something in the Devil’s workshop.

Perhaps Romancing the Bean does do that, but to look at it from only that perspective is to fail to see the larger picture.

Any adult visitor will quickly feel like he or she is in some sort of huge teenager’s room. Loud music competes with a loud video game and yet several café-goers are reading, studying or conversing quietly. Others are loud and boisterous.

In the coffee bar proper, through a door into another room, about 10 teens strewn on and across large, comfortable couches are watching a video.

With them was one of the café’s adult volunteers, Heather Thompson, the "Queen Bean."

She said Barge Levy, headmaster of the Silver Creek Alternative School, gave her the name and it stuck. Now, she wears the name on her vest, not as a matter of rank, but for fun.

An adult volunteer, Linda Johnson, was there to help bartender Jesse Olafson with his first night of making coffee drinks and Italian sodas.

The drinks were all a dollar on Friday night in honor of the Bean’s first anniversary.

Thompson said the café’s real birthday is Nov. 19. Since Thanksgiving holiday conflicted with the anniversary, however, they decided to celebrate a week later.

Cameron Jenkins, 13, said he didn’t know where he’d be if not at the café. Before Romancing the Bean, he said, he "was out partying, which was kind of bad."

Laci Cantrell, 12, said that if she weren’t at the café, she would be "hanging out with some friends doing nothing."

John Kremer, 12, said he had been coming to the café since last winter and had introduced three of his friends to the place.

One of the café-goers, wishing to remain anonymous, said the café closes down in the summer "for some stupid reason. There’s nothing to do in the summer any more than there is in the winter."

When he was challenged with "You live in beautiful Sun Valley, and there’s nothing to do?" he said, "Well think about it. It’s made for adults and tourists."

Romancing the Bean is a creative response to a 1998 scientific survey of 96 percent of the students in Blaine County in grades 6 through 12.

Students were asked to agree or disagree to 40 statements that measure their sense of empowerment, need for support, commitment to learning and five other categories.

The survey replicated a national study conducted by the Search Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. From that national survey, the institute developed a program it called "asset building."

All 40 statements in the survey are assets or "building blocks of healthy development."

Literature from the Search Institute says assets such as feeling valued by adults helps a young person "make wise decisions, choose positive paths, and grow up competent, caring and responsible."

Romancing the Bean supports a number of the assets for nurturing the county’s youth such as "feeling safe at home, school, and in the neighborhood," "spending time in sports, clubs or organizations," and "learning empathy, sensitivity and friendship skills."


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