Young and restless?

At least one Division Street merchant is worried that middle and high school students in Northfield need more after-school and summer activities to keep them busy. April Ripka, owner of the Sketchy Artist, said youth are frequenting her new establishment to play with her merchandise, not to buy it.

“I encourage creativity, but I don’t encourage loitering,” Ripka said on Monday, adding that some pre-teens have drawn graffiti on her merchandise and refused to obey her requests to behave while in the store.

As one of my first stories as Northfield’s representative journalist, I’m interested in hearing what youth and adult members of the community have to say about this matter. Point me in the right direction so we can discover if the community might do more to meet the needs of its children.


I shot this video of volunteer Breanna Clites at the YMCA office on Division Street on Tuesday, July 15 in the late afternoon. Her friend and co-worker Whitney Sannes also commented in front of the camera, but I am still working out a technical snag that would not allow me to upload the part of the footage in which she speaks. (My Sony Cyber-Shot movie files somehow need to be converted from .mpg to .mpeg before iMovie will allow me to edit them). In the complete file, Sannes said she would like to see a local hang-out just for youth that would be an unstructured social gathering place.

Clites, 19, is a rising sophomore at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill. studying public affairs and a graduate of Northfield High School. Sannes, 16, is a rising junior at the high school


I shot this video that same afternoon in which friends Krista Wahlstrom, 15, (left), and Julia Hartke, 15, describe their experiences growing up in Northfield. The girls are rising sophomores at Northfield High School. Again, technical glitches cut the video short. I caught some skateboarders hustling down the block later in the clip. I learned from multiple Northfielders about the “no wheels on sidewalks” law. The young women said the boarders would likely stick to a wheels-allowed skatepark if such a place existed.


  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    The teens who visit my store have been pretty respectful.

    July 16, 2008
  2. Holly Cairns said:

    Maybe April could set up a table where people can mess with things/doodle. Paper and pens, paint, etc. “Mess with this stuff only” table. Would take some money, but you could even have a wall of memberable art by various customers.

    July 16, 2008
  3. That’s unfortunate for April.  If I were mayor, I would crush those children with my beauty and charisma.  Just a suggestion.  

    July 16, 2008
  4. William Siemers said:

    As I recall, when I was a kid, the best part of summer vacation was having absolutely nothing to do. Or, more to the point, having the opportunity of setting an agenda, by myself, or with my friends. Just hanging out downtown…in the park…at the lake. Hopping on my bike (or later in my car) and heading out…no particular place to go.

    If this glorious lack of direction intersected with the interests of main street merchants, we ended up out the door. No big deal. No problem. What was probably ‘up to no good’ to them, was just ‘messin around’ to us.

    ‘Time to kill, What a Thrill, June and July…’

    July 16, 2008
  5. Patrick Enders said:

    It’s great to have lots of optional activities available for kids to select from. The more choices, the better. Some kids really benefit from them.

    Personally, I too revelled in the “glorious lack of direction” that William extolls. Yes, some kids do get into mischief (or very bad choices) when left to their own devices. However, most don’t. (My greatest crime, IIRC, was that my friends and I were frequently kicked out of the library for talking too loudly.) The trick is striking the right balance between freedom and structure/supervision for each kid in question. Or each business in question.

    July 16, 2008
  6. David Henson said:

    Bonnie – you picked a good first topic as addressing youth boredom clearly would address other community issues.

    Some public transportation connection to the cities for older teens would be very helpful and give them access to the wider world.

    July 16, 2008
  7. Anne Bretts said:

    At the risk of a geezer moment, can you think of kids who have more options than those in Northfield?
    Let’s make a list of disabled or elderly people who need chores done, working moms who need help with housework and babysitting, younger kids who need tutoring, library books that need to be shelved, parks that need cleaning and gardens that need tending. Those should be enough activities to keep all these kids busy — or encourage them to find alternatives to do on their own.
    As for places to hang out, there are the Key, the pool, the soccer fields pavilion, the many, many empty parks, the gorgeous back yards, the bike trails, baseball fields, basketball courts, Bridge Square, and every church in town. They can borrow videos from the library, start movie or book clubs or read magazines.
    The bus line can come up with a cost for a trip to the cities and kids can earn money to go, or parents can carpool. They can carpool to Rochester and play with the kids who are spending the summer in the Ronald McDonald House with their parents as they undergo ongoing medical care that leaves them really bored and without anything to do.
    If there’s a specific need, let’s address it. But Tracy lists a lot of options already in place. Let’s make sure they’re bursting at the seams before we worry about more.
    And let’s face it, teens are supposed to be bored and alienated. It’s part of the process of getting ready to leave home. If they were happy, they’d never leave.
    I think it’s time for a community viewing of “Failure to Launch.”

    July 16, 2008
  8. Tracy Davis said:

    Geez…. I didn’t read the whole post. That’s my daughter Julia in the second video, running amok downtown, eating ice cream at Hogan Brothers, etc.

    (Note to downtown business owners: If you recognize this kid and she’s ever given you problems, contact me and I’ll take care of it!)

    July 16, 2008
  9. Holly Cairns said:

    What the? Is there more story here?

    July 16, 2008
  10. Jerold Weber said:

    Griff,I did get the oppertunity to meet Bonnie the other day, when she did approach us (my wife and I) about this story. We don’t seem to have much of a problem with any kids causing any disturbences. Other than the occassional group of teenagers that tend to get a little loud up in our play area, we have not had any real issues at all ( no theft or just plain disrespectfullness).
    I have had an issue earlier this summer out on my Ice Cream Trike where a teenage boy was doing his best to try to harrass me even calling me names I won’t say here. I noticed very quickly that this was a teenager just trying to show off in front of his friends. I was able to rectify the situation by eventually catching this kid alone and confronting him more on his level. I told him I knew where he lived and I was going to tell his Mom what a jerk he had been. I have not had any problem with him or his friends since and in fact I would have to say they all have become great customers. He now stops me any time he see’s me to just say Hi.
    Overall, I feel this city has more options for the young to do than most other towns of same population, and I believe the parents work hard to maintain our small town feel by instilling those values on their children.

    July 17, 2008
  11. Curt Benson said:

    Bonnie, I think you have two stories here. First, alleged poor behavior of young people in Northfield’s stores. Second–is there enough to do for Northfield’s young people? I don’t think boredom is a good excuse for poor behavior in stores and linking the two ideas doesn’t make sense to me.

    Also, I’m wondering if Northfield’s young people–high school students and college students home for the summer–have had a hard time finding summer jobs. Has the economic downturn affected them? I’ve read that this is a problem elsewhere, but don’t know if it is a problem here.

    July 17, 2008
  12. Bonnie Obremski said:

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses everyone! It sounds like there may be quite a few small stories here. I’m curious to hear more information about building a skate park. Also, what’s the general consensus about kids hanging out late at night in Bridge Square? What’s that young crowd historically been like?

    July 17, 2008
  13. Tanner Wakeman said:

    I am a sophomore at NHS and I honestly don’t think there are many more opportunities and programs that could be established in northfield that are needed (with the exception of the skate park). Krista Wahlstrom is one of my best friends and she and I are in many of the same programs. We both play more than one instrument, we both are in soccer, both take french, we both are in the high school program RALIE (Raider Activity Leaders Improving Enthusiasm) and our schedules are always full. I don’t think its a problem of not enough opportunities as much as it is a problem of not enough kids and teens willing to take the opportunities. Many of my friends also have many programs, clubs etc. that they are busy with.

    August 26, 2008
  14. Tanner,

    I’m happy to see someone from the high school contributing to the conversation! Sorry it’s taken a while to post something back. I heard from a few other young people that they were also pretty happy with what Northfield has to offer them. But, why don’t you think everyone has the same opinion? How do some young people wind up feeling left out? And, whose responsibility is it to keep those people engaged in positive activities?

    September 15, 2008
  15. Amy Pfau said:

    Hi I’m new here, but would just like to add one point. Many of the suggestions given are service oriented, and are great ideas, but not what most kids consider “fun.” And not what your average “loiterer/heckler” would be attracted to. A lot of (not all) the fun stuff costs money, and not every kid has the money for the pool and and ice cream even once a week, much less daily.

    September 15, 2008
  16. Thanks Amy, that’s a good point. So, what should be done for those kids, if anything? Do you see many of them in Northfield? Are there other reasons besides being low on cash that could be causing those kids to be bored?

    September 16, 2008

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