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Hey! Café Clubhouse Opens as a Support Hub for Imperial Valley Youth

-Editorial

The Imperial Valley community is abuzz with excitement as the grand opening of Hey! Café Clubhouse ushers a new era of support and empowerment for local youth. An initiative by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI San Diego and Imperial Counties), is located at 1950 S 4th Street, Suite 4B, in the heart of the Sherwin-Williams/La Fonda shopping center.

One of the first people to enjoy the clubhouse was Mario Arvizu, 14, who enjoyed playing at the pool table with his friends.

“It’s really cool, I like it, we hang out, and you can play with your friends, and meet new people,” Arvizu said. “I’ll be here to finish my homework and play with my friends.”

More than just a recreational venue, the clubhouse stands as a sanctuary where teens and young adults ages 14 to 25 can discover a sense of belonging and the tools needed to realize their full potential. The clubhouse offers a comprehensive range of services tailored to meet the diverse needs of its members, including essential skills such as communication, wellness, conflict resolution, and financial management, all aimed at equipping youth with the knowledge necessary for successful adulthood.

“It’s a brand new thing here in the valley and it came because of many parent requests for social activities,” said Alfredo Zambrano, Program Manager of Hey! Cafe, “This is a haven for them and this is their home.” 

Central to the clubhouse’s mission is the cultivation of a supportive environment where participants receive guidance from mentors and are encouraged to pay it forward by becoming mentors themselves, thus nurturing a cycle of empowerment and leadership.

Education takes center stage here, with onsite tutoring and dedicated study spaces, ensures that academic support is readily accessible to help youth thrive in their educational endeavors. Moreover, the clubhouse provides a wealth of employment resources, from resume writing and skill-building workshops to interview preparation, internships, and job coaching, all aimed at empowering young adults to enter the workforce with confidence.

The clubhouse will be complemented by visits and presentations from various local groups and organizations and serve as a vital source of information on mental health and wellness. Peer support specialists stand ready to provide personalized assistance and encouragement to those in need.

To foster a dynamic and engaging atmosphere, the clubhouse offers a diverse array of activities tailored to the interests of its participants, ranging from music and movie nights to games, outings, and snacks, ensuring that every visit is both enriching and enjoyable.

Cathryn Nacario, RN, MHA

Chief Executive Officer of NAMI San Diego and Imperial Counties and President of the NAMI National Board of Directors explained that the State of California is funding this project and is looking for other funding streams to continue.

“We will be able to demonstrate such positive impact by this programming that finding additional funding to keep it in perpetuity won’t be difficult to do,” Nacario said and added that they expect to serve 200 clients a year. 

Support staff includes Aridesmi Palacios, a Generalist focused on employment, and Sara Pacheco, a Peer Support Specialist.

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