Nest intends to focus on students needs

Project provides opportunities for student involvement


Amira Ali

Nest board member Lara Cleveland and chair Julia Schmelzer listen to new students' ideas. The next Nest opportunity is Feb. 12 at City Hall.

Marta Hill

When Nest chair Julia Schmelzer reflected on the purpose behind the Nest, she said the goal is especially relevant in today’s day and age.

“(Students are) really scheduled, and there is a lot of stress. The expectations for school and getting into college are higher than they ever have been, so I think that stress is more of a factor for high school students these days,” Schmelzer said. “Additionally, if (students) are in an activity or a sport or whatever, (they) also have to find time to do that, which adds to the stress.”

Junior board member Libby Ramsperger said she hopes the Nest can be an accessible space for students to meet new people.

“If a student has nowhere to be after school, or they have to wait for a parent to pick them up, they can go there and relax. It is pretty much a hang out space, just to get with your friends and be exposed to different parts of the community,” Ramsperger said.

According to Schmelzer, the Nest aims to be a place where people can be what they want to be.
“It’s not a place where (youth) are supposed to be a student or supposed to be an employe or supposed to be an athlete on a sports team, just a little space where students can just be themselves,” Schmelzer said.

Lara Cleveland said unlike most coffee shops, customers of the Nest will not be required to purchase anything in order to spend time in the space.

“I would like to decouple the hangout from consumption and the need to be buying a coffee or buying something wherever you go,” Cleveland said. “We want to give you an option to do that, but we don’t want to make it a necessary precondition for having a place to be yourself and hang out.”

Schmelzer said students can get involved by helping plan the beginning stages of opening the Nest.

“Student involvement right now is helping to create the first year and what that looks like. It’s deciding what the bare necessities that we need, to make this a place where we can experiment with different things,” Schmelzer said.

According to Cleveland, current members of the Nest board need students to help spread the word and move the project forward.

“We are in a big communications phase right now, and so we need students to come and continue to think about the vision and talk about the vision to all kinds of people,” Cleveland said. “Those who are going to give money, those who may have supplies to build the place, those who have programs to offer, or resources to provide for the space.”

Schmelzer said students need to be the ones deciding what the Nest does and doesn’t need in the first year of operation.

“If we had to make any compromises, so if we can’t have a Cimbali espresso machine right now is a Keurig okay or do we want to have a food truck coffee shop come by every Thursday? If we have to make trade offs, what is the right trade off, and the students are going to have to be the ones that shape that decision,” Schmelzer said.

Ramsperger said she is most looking forward to seeing students express themselves in ways she doesn’t always get to see.

“We are planning on having some sort of art aspect of it, whether it be a stage or a wall where students can add painting or add a mug they made in pottery,” Ramsperger said. “I think students expressing themselves in general will be a good way to build community.”

According to Ramsperger, the Nest offers many valuable ways for students to get involved.
“(Students) can literally get connected by any means. (they) can talk to a board member, email them or contact them however and (they) can just volunteer time,” Ramsperger said. “We want to hear other people’s opinions and other people’s voices, because the more diversity the better.”

Schmelzer said she wants the Nest to truly be the students work, not something taken over by adults.

“My role has been to work with students to figure out what the space should be and trying to protect the essence of what students want, making sure that adult agendas don’t get in there and divert the mission and the purpose,” Schmelzer said. “Really the success is based on the students creating a space that works for them.”

The next Nest meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the St. Louis Park City Hall. For more information, visit the Nest website.