Photo essay: The Teen Safe Space opens in North Philly

Zara Johnson, 6, smiles for the news cameras outside the opening of The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

At the opening of a new center for young people in the heart of North Philadelphia, the community wore their hearts on their sleeves. Frontline Dads cut the ribbon on The Teen Safe Space at the Blues Babe Foundation on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, with the help of a grant from the Philadelphia Eagles. For the organization’s founder, Reuben Jones, it was the realization of a 20-year dream.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
Lydiana Veneziale, 7, was adamant about having her photo taken with the drones and robotic toys at The Teen Safe Space in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Lydiana Veneziale, 7, was adamant about having her photo taken with the drones and robotic toys at The Teen Safe Space in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Asiah Smith, 4 (left), Zara Johnson, 6 (center), and Aliyah Sanders, 8 (right), enjoy a meal at The Teen Safe Space’s opening day. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Asiah Smith, 4 (left), Zara Johnson, 6 (center), and Aliyah Sanders, 8 (right), enjoy a meal at The Teen Safe Space’s opening day. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jones, an activist, mentor, and poet, said the goal of the center is to make a positive impact on the lives of young people living in the city amidst its ongoing violence crisis. Inside The Teen Safe Space there are art supplies, an electric keyboard, and video drones. There will be sewing and cooking classes, financial literacy, and features a computer center, a “chill space” with video games, and a library filled with books on self-growth and empowerment.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
A sampling of books available for kids to read at The Teen Safe Space in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
A sampling of books available for kids to read at The Teen Safe Space in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Outside on Broad Street, Simon Gratz High School music teacher and mother, Yaszmin Belton, was floored to see a safe haven for her students open in North Philadelphia. She said they often ask her where they can go to hang out after school. “The opening is catapulting, beautiful,” Belton said. As a volunteer, she plans to help teach sewing, and hopes to work with young ladies on empowerment, self-care, and conflict resolution.

Members of Philadelphia’s service community gathered at the opening of The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Kerry Foster, a martial arts instructor and Ph.D. in family therapy, has been a volunteer for Frontline Dads for about 7 years. He works with kids through martial arts to develop concentration and discipline, and how they can use those skills to achieve their goals.

Yaszmin Belton, a music teacher at Gratz high school and a volunteer with Frontline Dads, with her son, Elo, 3, at the opening of The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. Belton was ecstatic that she could tell students who ask her where to go after school to come to the space. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
Yaszmin Belton, a music teacher at Gratz high school and a volunteer with Frontline Dads, with her son, Elo, 3, at the opening of The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. Belton was ecstatic that she could tell students who ask her where to go after school to come to the space. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“We invite partners around the city to help,” Jones said in an interview after the event that was paused for him to receive hugs of gratitude from supporters. Jones was shocked and moved to receive a “Hero Award” from The Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, and his mentor, James Wells, embraced Jones as they reflected on the “full circle” moment.

Frontline Dads founder Reuben Jones thanks his mentor James Wells at the opening of Jones’ organization’s community center for kids, The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jones threw his hands up in the air after his son Langston, 11, and his wife, Kaphesia Jones, cut the ribbon on The Teen Safe Space. “Today is just the beginning, it’s not the pinnacle of our work, it’s the beginning of something that we want the team to build on and build up,” Jones said.

Kerry Foster, with his daughter Mova, 3 at the opening of The Teen Safe Space on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, on February 21, 2022. Foster is a volunteer with Frontline Dads, a martial arts teacher, and a doctor who specializes in family therapy. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Teen Safe Space will be open starting tomorrow.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal