More and more Valley kids are putting their power into projects around the community, working behind the counter and behind the scenes. Today’s local young people have expanded their activities well beyond the scope of school and entertainment. By doing so, they’re not only strengthening their community, they’re growing as individuals—and, sometimes, they end up making their dreams come true.
“Wait until you grow up” wasn’t a message the Harrison kids heard from their parents, at least in regard to exercising creativity and responsibility. So, they saw no reason to wait.
With their mother, Kim, steering the ship, Shane, 16, and Kayla, 15, have sailed into the world of business. In a house hunkered behind a friendly twig?fence?on?First?Avenue?in Ketchum— between Felix’s Restaurant and the Friesen Gallery—the family’s hip tea bar and restaurant, Strega, opened in December 2003. The teens work alongside (and sometimes ahead of) their mother, and their father, Michael, a product designer, occasionally drops in.
“It’s basically my life now,” exclaims Shane with a good-natured laugh. “I just go home to sleep.”
Shane has taken command of the tea bar, where he works with a menu of close to 90 different teas and a variety of coffee drinks. When someone wants beer or wine, he has to find his mother. (In Idaho, alcohol can’t be served by anyone under the age of 19 years.) Although Shane works every day, he also has fun. His friends stop by after school, and several of them work alongside him at the tea bar.
When business slows down, the friends and fellow students often gather at tables to do homework. That’s part of the fun, according to them—as is the process of learning the properties of the myriad white, green, and black teas that are now available, and becoming knowledgeable salespeople.
While all coffee houses in the Valley welcome young customers, the Harrison kids are striving to create their own niche in the market by gathering people of all generations together, especially at night. Strega is modeled after teahouses the family visited in Spain.
Shane concedes that he needed a boost from an adult like his mother to keep his dream on track. “If I was doing it by myself, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” he admits.
His mother agrees that her part in the launch of Strega was substantial, but points out that the kids were the driving force. Her life experience lent practicality, a rudder, and financial backing.
“It was a democracy until I’d say, ‘That won’t work,’ and then it was a dictatorship,” Kim says. “Creatively and conceptually, though, it was a team effort. If they didn’t feel comfortable with our plan, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Kayla shared her ideas “on everything” while Strega was in the planning phase. “I mostly agreed with my mom, but I improved on some things, like choosing the linoleum. I didn’t want to have a boring kitchen floor.” Thanks to Kayla, the floor is a cheerful composite of brightly colored squares. Kayla also voted to lease the small house on First Avenue, and has stepped up as the employee in charge of scheduling job duties for the crew. Allowing her life to be consumed by work isn’t her goal, however.
“I don’t want to be too much like a serious businesswoman, because it’s stressful,” says Kayla. “I have other things I want to do, too.” >>>
Another Wood River Valley youth who has taken charge of his dreams is Yancy Caldwell. Now 18 years old, Yancy started working on the Guy Coles Skate Park when he was 11 years old and barely strong enough to carry a two-by-four.
“I wanted a skate park and figured if I wanted one, I’d have to do it,” he shrugs.
With several other skateboarders, he assisted Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation snowboard team coach Andy Gilbert and Board Bin manager Dave Kelso in constructing wooden ramps and curls at the park, which is located at the corner of Saddle Road and Warm Springs Road in Ketchum. This summer, the park will feature permanent concrete terrain.
“It’s really cool that it has evolved into a concrete park just from a bunch of kids working on it,” says Yancy.
Coach Gilbert adds, “There were a ton of kids involved in those early days. They really can make a difference. The power of kids should never be diminished or underestimated.”
In Ketchum, and later at the Hailey Skate Park, adults encouraged teens to take leadership responsibilities, keeping the parks clear of rubbish and safe for all users, no matter their age. Ted Elgee, A.J. Schafer, Stef Carter, and Stu Byerly are at the Hailey park on a regular basis as soon as the snow disappears. All the skaters take great pride in knowing that the skate park is so successful because of the commitment and involvement of young people. The Hailey park is ranked as one of the best of its kind in the nation.
Ten-year-old Dalyah Rose Hughes, a fourth-grader at Hailey Elementary School, stepped without hesitation into the world of professional jewelry design. Capitalized with a $50 gift from her grandmother, Dalyah invested it all in a buying trip to a major jewelry show in September, 2003. When she launched her first line at the Hemingway Elementary School Holiday Craft Bazaar that December, she sold out of nearly everything.
Now exhibited at her parents’ Hughes Jewel Gallery, Daly Rose Jewels is one of the best-selling lines in the shop. Her first exhibition will open in June, 2004 to coincide with the popular art gallery walk, and to highlight Daly’s expansion into the more technical aspects of creating earrings that coordinate with her necklaces and bracelets. Eventually, young Daly hopes to learn the art of the goldsmith from her father, Vint Hughes.
A formidable powerhouse of kids has recently opened a hard-earned gathering place. The Wood River Valley Youth Center Hub provides a mid-Valley location for kids to enjoy art classes, create stage productions, try their skills at karaoke, play pool, or just hang out together. The location in the Community Campus—the old Wood River High School building—places the Hub next to an open gym and the Blaine County Aquatic Center.
More than 50 active juvenile members of the Blaine County Teen Advisory Council, supported by adults in the Blaine County Youth Partnership, form Youth Adult Konnection, or YAK!. Together with the Blaine County Recreation District, YAK! celebrated the opening of the Hub earlier this year after nearly four years of research and hard work.
“The kids were the driving force behind this whole project,” explains YAK! director Angenie McCleary. “They conducted surveys to substantiate the need for the Hub, they conducted interviews in the hiring process of the architecture and building teams, and they were the main source of information in the overall planning process. They were phenomenal, and worked very, very hard to see this dream come true.”
The Wood River Valley regularly produces world-class athletes, Ivy League scholars, successful entrepreneurs, and thinkers who live outside the box. While every community has difficult issues to resolve, and the WRV is not immune, the future of any area is heavily influenced by the quality of its youths’ dreams. It seems that we are in very good hands.
Sue Bailey gleans a little help from everyone who crosses her path, whether they know it or not.