It’s about making Argentine better, said Emma Jones and Sergio Garcia.
Both middle schoolers are members of Imagine Argentine’s 10-student cohort. The social entrepreneurship program is dedicated to solving social challenges in Argentine, Kansas, said Kurt Reitema, director of justice initiatives for Youthfront, a KC-based youth ministry organization.
The cohort meets each day during the week in the Imagine Argentine Change Maker Lab to identify aspects of the community they wish to change and brainstorm possible entrepreneurial solutions, Reitema said.
Jones and Garcia wrote down violence in schools and trash build up as top concerns, they said. The students still have a couple weeks to narrow their goals.
Last year’s cohort discussed the many empty storefronts in Argentine and social isolation caused by the lack of gathering spaces for youth in the community, said Reitema.
They put those thoughts together to create Snack Shack KC, a youth hangout spot in an empty storefront which, since the fall of 2017, which is operated by the youth who devised it and managed by Youthfront
“It’s gone really well. We’ve grown in some areas. … We added scoop ice cream just this week and it’s meeting the social goals the youth set out to do,” Rietema said. “Now it’s growing up as a business beyond being perceived just an after-school hangout to welcome the broader public and families.”
Since its opening, the original founders have been directly involved with the maintenance of the business. The group organizes regular business meetings to discuss management and future plans, he said.
“They’re not going to take action unless they actually care about it; if they don’t own the idea and own the development of it,” said Reitema.
The Snack Shack idea took two years to materialize into reality, he said. Initially, the cohort walked throughout the neighborhood to visualize a good place for the hangout, which had to be central to the community and within walking distance.
The group chose a storefront that happened to be owned by the local school district. After two years of back and forth with the district, Youthfront was given the space, as well as more square footage next door, which together became the Imagine Argentine headquarters.
Students fully outfitted the spaces in July 2017, with the Snack Shack containing pool tables, games and comfortable seating areas for the youth.
This year’s cohort, including Jones and Garcia, hope to be similarly successful, said Reitema, with the group planning a formal pitch night event for June 28 at the Snack Shack, where the cohort will be presenting their ideas to friends, family and community stakeholders, he said.
“We’re adding real value to the community,” Reitema said.