Miami Gardens hot spot inspires teenagers across South Florida

Creativity, community combine at Starbucks on Northwest 27th Avenue

By Layron Livingston - Reporter

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - A new hot spot, where creativity and community combine, is inspiring teenagers from all across South Florida.

"Some come out to just express their feelings," high school junior Janai Altenor said.

"The overall atmosphere is just intoxicating," high school senior Jonatan Francois said.

"We don't have enough venues where students, teenagers are able to voice their opinions, unapologetically," Miami Norland Senior High School teacher Dr. Precious Symonette said. "They're building friendships, they're building these relationships and coming up with other ideas that they can do to make the world better."

It's one poem, one song or one whatever at a time.

"Very therapeutic," Altenor said. "You can come up here and do standup. It's honestly a way to just reel back in to who you really are."

For the past year on just about every third Thursday of the month, the Starbucks on Northwest 27th Avenue in Miami Gardens is packed.

"Like a sanctuary in a way, where you're free to be yourself and use your talent that God gave you, where you share a piece of yourself," Francois said.

"They're all on this journey of trying to figure things out," Symonette said.

Symonette teaches creative writing at Norland Senior High School.

"I wanted to create a safe space where my students can come, not feel judged, to voice their opinions and to develop a sense of community," Symonette said.

She said she reached out to the Miami Gardens mayor, who pops in himself from time to time.

"That interaction is fundamental to community," Mayor Oliver Gilbert said.

The new community Starbucks was more than onboard to host. "Open mic night" is now a thing and growing, going into its second year.

"Being able to stand in front of your peers and express yourself and your talent when you have that confidence, it helps you in every area of life," Gilbert said.

"A lot of our youth are being deterred by a lot things going on around them," Altenor said.

"Seeing them support each other, I think that's something that stands out in my heart and my mind, every single month," Symonette said.

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