Orbit Teen Space Opens On Vashon
By Olivia London-Chambers, Reporter
Vashon has always lacked youth-specific spaces, but Veronica Aristeo, the Youth Program Coordinator at the Open Space, has been working hard to change that. Aristeo is creating a space for teens, located at the Vashon Island Open Space building, called “Orbit”. Orbit has endless possibilities — teens now have a completely free space to organize fundraisers, put on events, or throw parties, with creative freedom to bring other ideas to life.
Aristeo began working on Orbit in June.
“This summer, it was just a lot of gathering information to figure out what high school age youth want on the island and what’s missing,” Aristeo said. “The teen center was one of three big identified things that people were saying. [Teens] were telling me, ‘We just need a place that is not structured, somewhere that is simply our space,’ and that’s where the teen center [idea] came from.”
Aristeo has previously worked in Olympia doing Queer Rock Camp, an organization that encourages young girls — and now gender non-binary youth as well — to get involved in music. She also has experience working with many LGBTQ+ centers in Seattle, the Bay Area, and New Orleans. Until recently, Aristeo was working to create a safe space for homeless youth in San Francisco.
To build the foundation for the project, Aristeo has taken some of her past experience working on youth centers and combined it with the information she gathered from young people on the island.
“[Vashon] is a lot smaller than many of the places I’ve worked in the past … There’s a lot more privilege,” Aristeo said. “It’s a funny thing to come from a place of work where there’s a really high demand but fewer resources, whereas now, I’m pretty well resourced, but actually getting people in the door and building trust with the community is the hard part.”
Aristeo has converted one of the rooms in the O-Space into Orbit, which is now a casual rec-style area for hosting events. “My biggest project was turning [the teen center] from a storage unit into the space it is now,” Aristeo said. The space is now fully decorated and includes a foosball table, a lounge area with couches and chairs, and an arts and crafts area and filled with drawing and painting supplies.”
As the youth program coordinator, Aristeo has also been working hard to get youth interested in the teen space.
“I want this to be a space where teenagers can connect with each other and just be themselves,” Aristeo said. “At school you have to behave a certain way, at home you have to behave a certain way … Here, you can just be the freak you want to be.”
Orbit’s drop-in hours are currently Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3:00-6:00 pm. Wednsdays are LGBTQ+ specific, Thursdays are associated with Journeymen and Sister Circle, and Friday is open to all. You can find Orbit on Instagram at the handel @orbit_openspace.
“Come hang out and make the space yours,” Aristeo said. “My house, your house. Always feel free to contact me if you have any ideas, wants, or constructive criticisms for Orbit. This really is a space for you all. I’m just here to make it possible!”