Dick Gardell is wearing many hats nowadays. Earlier this month, one of them was a hard hat as he gave a tour of his organization's Youth Development Campus, which is under construction along E. 7th Street on the city's East Side.
This summer, there's a lot going on at the St. Paul location of 180 Degrees, where Gardell is the president and CEO. Workers are constructing the new Connections Center, which will serve as a drop-off station for East Side youth who are picked up by the police for breaking curfew. Once at the center, the 180 Degrees staff will try to see if the kids can benefit from services such as the Leadership Academy, an initiative of the Ramsey County Attorney's Office. The program's goal is to "foster positive youth interactions with law enforcement, school connectedness and support, leadership skills development, job-seeking support and other strengths-based youth engagement."
Right now teens are being dropped off in the other offices at the site as the real Connections Center is being finished. Hopefully, it will be ready to go by the beginning of August, Gardell said. He hopes that eventually the center could operate past the summer and be 24-7 like the Juvenile Supervision Center in Hennepin County. Check out the video above and at the end of the post for more info. The Connections Center is one of several youth projects happening this summer on the East Side.
The youth development campus will be a smorgasbord of services, Gardell said.
"The idea here is that you have the opportunity to impact the lives of our clients in as many ways as possible so we have mental health therapists here, chemical health therapists, case managers, our mentoring program our Evening Learning Center, our therapeutic garden, our vocational training center...and then our Connections Center," he said.
Toward the back of the 180 Degrees campus is a huge building that looks like a large barn. The building will serve as part vocational training area and part incubator for community projects, Gardell said. Some of the training will focus on home economics and wood shop, he said. The new low-powered FM East Side radio station that the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council recently got a license for will have its antenna and its studio at the building as well, Gardell said.
Last year, authorities announced the groundbreaking of the Safe and Sound Shelter, a safe haven for sexually exploited girls, that will also be housed at the campus. The shelter, which will have a dozen beds, is scheduled to open this August.