SLP Nest settles into its space near St. Louis Park High School's stadium - 1

Youth Coordinator Ellen Pajor, left, takes orders from St. Louis Park High School sophomores Ella Weinmann, back right, and Darbi Beebe, front right, Nov. 6 at the SLP Nest. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Seth Rowe)

With barricades blocking off Library Lane in front of the SLP Nest, the teen hangout is closing temporarily this summer.

The nonprofit announced on its website, slpnest.org, “The coffee shop portion of SLP Nest is temporarily closing until the first day of school while street and sidewalk construction wraps up.”

The organization’s leaders will use the time to plan for the second year of the coffee shop at 3416 Library Lane.

“We will still be offering events and opportunities for more students to get involved this summer,” the statement reads. “We have loved serving you this past year and are excited to share more this fall!”

Construction activities outside the site, including a pit for a period, deterred visitors from coming to the SLP Nest, Youth Coordinator Ellen Pajor said.

“If the space wasn’t being utilized for its intended purpose to the level it was during the school year, we wanted to make sure that we were able to still utilize our student and adult volunteers in a way that would make year two even better,” Pajor said.

Leaders planned to meet with the St. Louis Park City Council to discuss goals and programming for the next year and to seek funding during a July 8 study session, after this edition went to press.

One idea entails a peer advocacy group at nearby St. Louis Park High School, said Golden Valley resident Nietzsche Deuel, who graduated this year from the school but remains involved in the SLP Nest. Students who participated would receive training about mental health and how to talk to other students while listening to their struggles.

While a group called Natural Helpers already exists at the school, Deuel said the idea for a new group would involve more formalized training. However, Pajor said there are legal issues to consider, such as reporting requirements, and a need to keep students emotionally safe. Funding is a need as well.

Organizers are also navigating other ideas to help students utilize their voices and their energy effectively, Pajor said.

However, the nonprofit will need to hire a new youth coordinator as Pajor announced she will return to her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, for family reasons at the end of the month.

“It’s sad for me because I’ll miss this place,” Pajor said. “It was a very difficult decision.”

The SLP Nest has posted a job listing for the position on its website.

In the meantime, Pajor will work with students this month on their planning activities.

“We’re so fortunate that these students feel loyalty enough to us to stick with us over the break,” she said.

Before the construction began outside the SLP Nest, St. Louis Park resident Lara Cleveland, an adult board member for the nonprofit, said traffic had been steadily increasing.

“I wouldn’t say it was as busy as we would love for it ultimately to be, but we really have seen an upward trajectory from January to June,” Cleveland said.

Attendance had doubled from the fall semester last year to the spring semester this year, Pajor added.

The construction has been a way to refocus, Cleveland said.

“We want students to find a place where they can do things that they never thought that they have agency to do,” she said, expressing emotion in her voice.

Referring to students who planned the Art + Talk group for teenagers this summer, Cleveland said, “I’ve talked about this before without getting emotional, but I’m seeing it lived out here.”

Pajor responded, “It’s true. That’s why this place is so hard to leave because it is so amazing to see what students can accomplish when given the support.”

When talking about the efforts of teenagers involved in the SLP Nest, she said she felt emotional as well.

Pajor said, “What you guys have really chosen to do is give back to your community."

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