Believing in the power of youth voice, The Underground Café endeavors to transform the experiences and perceptions of inner-city teens by creating venues for leadership, civic engagement, and creative expression.
A youth-run coffee shop, art space, and innovative community center, The Underground Café involves youth in programs and events that are relevant to their lives while broadening their horizons. The premise of The Underground Café is unique and simple: For Youth, By Youth.
Currently, The Underground Café offers six distinctive, successful programs, which are organized and led in collaboration with teens. These include:
1) The Youth Board: Leadership development, community organizing, and event planning are at the core of this group, comprised of 15 teens who are the most dedicated volunteers with our organization. The Youth Board meets once each week to discuss pressing issues in their community, design events and programs to meet their needs, and direct adult staff in implementing plans to help teens.
2) The Accepted College Prep Program: Grounded in the belief that all youth should have the opportunity to pursue higher education, this program guides high school juniors and seniors with financial need through the college application process each year.
3) OuterGround: Exposure to, experience with, and expertise in understanding the outdoors is the primary mission of this program. Teens build confidence, discover new things about themselves, and learn to work together through outdoor adventures.
4) The Couper Art Center: By providing new venues for self-expression, this program helps teens get their voices heard through art, music, literature, and dance. With an Annual City-Wide Mural Initiative and Movies in the Park Series, this is one of our most popular and publicized programs.
5) Global Youth Unite: With the fourth highest density of refugees in the nation and 41 languages spoken in the public high school, teens recognized the need for global awareness within their community. This program trains youth to be peer educators to foster peace, acceptance, and unity in their city.
6) Youth Impact Project: Youth with disabilities deserve equality. This project encourages teens with and without disabilities to be advocates for people with disabilities through collaborative and inclusive workshops, events, campaigns, and activities.
The following is a sample of our youth initiated and organized events: art exhibits, leadership courses, break dancing workshops, college preparation sessions, talent shows, mural painting initiatives, film workshops and screenings, jazz concerts, and social change workshops.
The Underground Café is a program of Utica Safe Schools Healthy Students Partnership, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Utica, NY.