Started by two motivated students, Breanna Robinson and Allison Buck, the Teen Coffeehouse opened in North Adams, MA in March 1997. The area has been cited for disproportionately high rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and child abuse, thus giving the city's population a bad image, with teenagers often stereotyped as potential trouble-makers. With the Teen Coffeehouse, Breanna and Allison refuse to let the young people of their town exist underneath the shadow of bad reputation and instead provide opportunities for youth to gather together in a safe environment. In doing so, they have overcome the barriers between adults and teens in the community.
Although faced with opposition from local community officials who warned that teens gathered in one area would inevitably lead to trouble, Breanna and Allison persisted in their efforts to establish the Teen Coffeehouse meetings. Together they proved that a good idea supported by hard work and determination could turn into a viable action plan. Gatherings take place twice a month at a café on Main Street in North Adams. Between February and May 1997, five coffeehouse events took place. Four of the five events attracted nearly 200 teens. The events were so successful that some had to be turned away at the door due to fire code regulations. In 1998, the Teen Coffeehouse was revived in a larger location, the Eagles Hall in North Adams. The group has been welcomed back to this location on a monthly basis.
The Teen Coffeehouse is bringing together several community organizations, each of which lend their support to the Coffeehouse events. Such groups include the CommUNITY Arts Program of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, the North Adams Police Department and the Mayor's Office, all of which work to ensure the group's continued success. The smoke, drug and alcohol-free café where area teens are able to congregate, socialize and enjoy music are widely supported by the adults in North Adams because it is a positive, fun environment for the city's youth population.
Future plans for the Teen Coffeehouse events include finding a permanent home for the gatherings so that the organization can be self-sustaining. Most importantly, the teens that run this program want to see the Coffeehouse to expand to include the participation of a majority of the young people in their city. They understand firsthand the need for substance-free activities for teens that often find the movies too expensive or are unable to find transportation to events. The Teen Coffeehouse provides this service to the teen community of North Adams, emphasizing the safety of everyone who comes to enjoy a night out with their friends.