The Twelve35 Teen Center is hosting a celebration this month featuring everything from improvisational theater and dance-offs, to presentations on such weighty matters as bullying and other abuse. The Second Annual Youth Empowerment for Safety Fair invites all community members to participate.

By promoting creative endeavors, the Y.E.S. Fair shows young adults positive alternatives to drugs, alcohol, and violence. Organized by the Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Santa Barbara Youth Council, and the Twelve35 Teen Center, the fair also gives teenagers an opportunity to showcase their talents.

“Another part of our focus is to get adults in the community to see that there are volunteer opportunities,” said Toni Wellen, Chair of the Coalition Against Gun Violence. “People are concerned about the safety and welfare of the community; the best way to help is to find an organization that suits you and volunteer.”

One motivation for attending is the Free for the Weekend program, whereby State Street businesses give weekend vouchers to those who sign a pledge not to use drugs, alcohol, or violence. Students signing these pledges at their schools can walk over to State Street right after the fair if they like.

A series of outdoor musical and theatrical youth performances throughout the day will include the Dos Pueblos Improvisation Troupe and a Dance Off by students of Santa Barbara High School. A martial artist will perform a black-belt-level demonstration for the crowd. Those seeking information about dealing with violence will find a number of organizations inside the Twelve35 Teen Center. The Rape Crisis Center and the Teen Legal Clinic are just two of the groups that will present on teen violence issues ranging from bullying, to suicide, to abuse.

Community members can also take part in the Clothesline Project, which helps victims of violent crimes deal with their pain through self-expression. Those who want to participate receive shirts of various colors depending on the type of violence they have encountered, and are given tools to decorate the shirt in any manner they choose. “One of the purposes of this event is to listen to our kids and learn from them,” Wellen said.

The fair will take place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, and is free to the public.


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