By Mary Boyle
High school is tough. Not only are kids growing in both brain and body at a rapid rate, they are in a sort of void - no longer children, but not yet adults. Outside of school, there are few places for teenagers to go where they are welcome, which not only welcomes trouble, but gives them no place in the community. Members of the Alliance Bible Church in Mequon hope to fill that void by creating a part of the community specifically for teenagers: The Student Union.
The TSU, which just opened in downtown Cedarburg this past September, is actually years in the making, and it began with a group of people from Alliance who were passionate about helping kids. They started a successful, free tutoring service called Acacia, but they felt that kids needed a space they could really call their own. Fundraising began, and the group kept their eye out for the perfect spot to open up. When the shop south of the Cedarburg Cultural Center became available, they knew it was the place; even so, it took about a year of renovation before they could open the doors.
While it resembles a trendy coffee shop, only middle and high school students with a student ID can enter the TSU. Coffee, tea, bakery, pizza, and more can be purchased at student-friendly prices and, unlike traditional coffee shops, students are encouraged to stay as long as they like to do homework, meet friends, get a drink or a bite to eat, play board games, and more. The space was specifically designed for middle and high school students: the entire front of the TSU is wide windows, and even the back room that is used for tutoring sessions has glass doors, to everyone is always visible. One area resembles a living room, with comfy stuffed chairs and a television, with the majority of the space is tables and chairs; but, there is also a small stage for performances, and a long bar with outlets over each space, for individual work.
Steve Schroeder, who helped lead the TSU charge and designed the space, wants to make sure the community knows that it's for all of the kids. "We're faith-based, and we're not trying to hide that, but we wanted to be 'non-churchy,' so that everyone would feel comfortable. We want kids to know they're valued, loved, and can make a big contribution to the larger community by making connections in this smaller community."
Sarah Rennicke, a former Acacia tutor, was recently named the Executive Director of TSU, and is excited for the possibilities. "Art events, music night, discussion about issues affecting the kids, community projects and partnering...we're here to serve our community and serve the kids, and we want everyone to come here."
One of the first events coming to the TSU is a Christmas Party on Friday, December 15th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Students can find out more by following the TSU Facebook Page, or on Instagram.
The Student Union is located at W62 N542 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg, and is open from 2-9 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. For more information, visit the TSU website at: http://www.thestudentu.org/