Me, In Progress is a space designed for teenagers, by teenagers, said Beverly Johnson, CEO and president of Easterseals Northeast Central Florida.
Me, In Progress — also known as #MIP — is a new teen wellness program designed by Easterseals that combines a social spot for high school kids with wellness and counseling opportunities. MIP, located at 3398 N. State St. in Bunnell, held its first open house on Friday, Nov. 10.
MIP is meant to fill a void in Palm Coast and Flagler County: Teens in the area do not have a place where they can go that is just for them, Johnson said.
“We were just saying, 'Wouldn't it be great if there was a place for these kids to go, where they could connect and where they could feel supported?'" she said.
Easterseals came up with a concept of something like a “‘Friends’-coffee shop,” combining a social hub with a wellness center, Johnson said. MIP will have counselors on site and offer both individual and group counseling, as needed.
She said individual counseling could take the form of formal counseling or just be one-off conversations, depending on the kid’s needs.
Johnson said Easterseals put together a test group of teens to help design the space, its activities and even the programs MIP will have.
“Nothing about them, without them,” Johnson said.
Brandon Stewart, one of the directors at MIP, said the team had to take feedback from teens and make it fit in the lounge space at MIP.
The main room is split into several sections: a kitchenette; a lounge area in front of a TV, complete with a PlayStation 5; a board game area; an air hockey table and a library area with comfortable chairs and two bookcases.
“If you know anyone who needs to donate any books,” Stewart said, “send them to MIP.”
The main area also has two computers for kids who might need to get some homework done, Stewart said. Next to that is a faux-grass-covered selfie wall with a pink neon sign that reads, “#MIP.”
“We had to have [a selfie wall],” he said.
The second room has a private space for individual and group therapies and an open space for larger group activities, like a yoga class or a group seminar.
Lou Garcia, an analyst with All Therapies Support, Inc., said Palm Coast and Flagler County lack dedicated spaces for teenagers to hang out. He said All Therapies Support may want to use the space at #MIP for things like skills groups for teens.
“Kids need a place to hang out after school,” Garcia said. “I think it’s a really important asset for the Palm Coast area.”
As for how the kids will get there, MIP has a van, Director Deanna Dempsey said, and can pick up kids and check them in at MIP after school.
“From talking to students, we got, 'Sounds great, but how do I get there?' And we were like, 'Valid point,'" Dempsey said. "So the after-school pickups will start the week after Thanksgiving break."
Johnson said there will be a check-in system where parents will be notified by text or email when their child signs into MIP after school.
“We’re trying to make sure we have all the safety stops in place,” Johnson said.
Dempsey joined the Easterseals team in July as a wellness director for MIP.
She said she was excited to begin work at MIP because it combined all of her favorite things: health and wellness and student development and engagement.
“That was kind of what attracted me to this. It's like I can introduce [these teenagers] to all these life skills,” she said.
Dempsey said it can be hard for teens and young adults to put themselves out there and learn the tools they will need as adults. She said MIP will be able to help teach kids these tools.
"I think the biggest thing is getting students here," she said.
Johnson said MIP is geared toward high schoolers because they will soon be out in the world on their own.
“We felt like it was our last-ditch effort to help these kids gain their confidence and realize that they were the amazing human beings that they were before they go off and do military or trade school or college or work or whatever it is,” Johnson said.
MIP's programs will continue to be informed about the teens it serves, too, she said.
Johnson said MIP's programming will include courses like learning to prepare a resume, teaching kids how to use equipment at a gym or even a simple journaling class.
“It’s all about whole-body wellness and exploration,” Johnson said. “We’re going to kind of watch and see what the kids need.”