Youth Creating Change, a group of middle and high school students from Orange County, is asking the Chapel Hill Town Council for $18,000 in start-up capital for the business.
David Thompson, YCC president and Orange High School sophomore, said he envisions the arcade as a place where kids can gather to create a sense of community. "It's not just going to be a place to get rowdy," Thompson said. "It'll be a place to communicate with each other."
Thompson said he and his associates believe Chapel Hill offers little entertainment for youth, especially blacks his age. He explained that Chapel Hill hot spots like Franklin Street and University Mall don't cater to the interests of younger people.
"That's why you catch kids out on the streets, because they have nothing to do," Thompson said.
YCC plans to make the arcade a youths-only hangout by using a membership program restricted to people ages 13 to 18. A location has not been chosen yet.
Though the arcade is still in the development stages, Thompson said the profits from the arcade will be used to create a scholarship for low-income high school students in the area.
The group's original request for a community development grant was denied by Chapel Hill officials, said Chapel Hill Town Manager Cal Horton.
Thompson and YCC appealed the denial March 28, presenting their business plan for the arcade directly to council members.
The fate of YCC's proposal is now in the hands of Horton and the Town Council. Horton will present his recommendation to council members early next month for the final decision concerning the arcade grant.
Council member Kevin Foy said he admires the initiative YCC is taking with the proposal. "I agree that it (is) an ambitious proposal they're making, and it's commendable," Foy said. "They're young people who I think would benefit from running a business."
But Foy said the town's budget is tight, and several other viable grant proposals have been submitted since early January, providing stout competition for the youth group. "When people say there are competing interests, it's very true," he said.
Foy said the $476,000 community development budget is not big enough to fund all grant requests and that there will be many disappointed applicants come next fiscal year.
YCC has been working on its business plan for two years with the help of advisors from EmPOWERment Inc., a nonprofit community development corporation in Chapel Hill.
One adviser, Maxecine Mitchell, said the arcade YCC has proposed is just what Chapel Hill needs.
"Kids say, 'there's nothing else to do but hang out on the streets,'" Mitchell said. "We want to provide a safe place for kids to enjoy themselves."
Fabian Farrington, another adviser, said that developing the business plan has given YCC members a chance to develop leadership skills. "I'm really proud of what these kids have done in the past two years," Farrington said. "I hope the town of Chapel Hill would see this as an investment in the youth."
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