It takes a Village to raise a teen
If you enter the Village on a Friday afternoon, it’s not hard to spot them.
Scores of teens, mostly from El Roble Intermediate and some from Claremont High School, make their way to the Village most afternoons when school is out to mingle, socialize and sometimes get into trouble.
“We come here every day just to hang out,” said Suzie Antillon, who was walking with her friends Eric Kim, Kiersten Clark, Michael Palma and Trevor Schwartz, on First Street. According to Suzie, some of the kids go to Blaze Pizza, and many of them go to Village teahouse CK Café.
Walk around every corner in the Village in the afternoon and you’ll find them—walking in tandem down Second Street, coalescing into groups in front of the Packing House and shuffling in and out of local businesses.
The teens have had an increase of scrutiny placed on them in recent weeks due to complaints from local businesses and for fights, which have garnered local attention.
A group of five El Roble students sitting in front of the Christian Science Reading Room—Joseph Diaz, Jose Prendiz, Angel Prendiz, Julius Melendrez and Eddie Flores—said they sometimes go into local businesses if they have the money and hang around at their usual spot on Second Street by the Village Market before their parents come to pick them up around 5 p.m.
But sometimes, their relationship with local businesses goes sour. The boys relayed they were recently kicked out of Village Grille for wanting to split a single order of fries between them.
“They think it gives them a bad image to have a few kids there,” said Joseph.
Jose Prendiz took it a bit further. “They’re rude! I just want some ranch,” he said.
Gina Rodriguez, the manager at Village Grille, denied that the kids are banned from the restaurant, but noted they do have a “one plate per two kids” policy to keep them from crowding the restaurant while ordering a minimal amount of menu items.
“As small as the diner is, you can’t have them hang out and order one fry,” she said.
El Roble student Madison Romero said that kids can sometimes get rowdy in the Village, but it all depends on “the crowd you hang around,” whether it’s the skaters or kids who pump their music at loud volumes.
But there’s a certain group of kids, Madison said, who “try to get themselves into trouble.” They head to local parks and “go bodies,” which is a term for play fighting with one another without any genuine animosity.
Madison and her friends used to go to the Packing House to hang out, but now largely avoid that area because of increased police presence.
That stepped-up police presence could be from an incident on January 27, when two El Roble girls savagely beat a 14-year-old CHS girl. That fight, recorded on Snapchat where it spread around different schools, sent shockwaves throughout the community. The police were also called on January 29 when chunks of ice were dropped from the top of the parking structure onto the Whisper House patio, which caused about $400 in damage.
Nearly every teenager approached by the COURIER either knew about the fight, knew the girls involved or both.
Eddie Flores called the fight “the big one,” but stressed it wasn’t a common occurrence. It was a mindset shared with Madison, who called the whole situation “a little bit of over-exaggerating.”
Michael Palma, sitting on a curb in front of Sonja Stump Photography, noted that fighting in the Village has actually decreased in recent months.
“Last year it happened way too much, it cut down this year,” he said. “Either they have new places or the fights started stopping.”
Patricia Pennington, a server at Village Grille, says the kids who wander around the Village are “mostly civil,” save for a few of them who goof around.
“I’ve been here for seven years, and I see them grow up, move on and come back in as adults,” she said.
Justin Sanders, who has worked at Stix Ride Shop for two years, noted the kids that come into his store are mostly relaxed and happy to be there.
He said the skate shop acts as a safe space for skater kids in a part of town where skateboarding is outlawed, sometimes coming into the shop to outrun the police.
“They’re comfortable in here,” he said.
But wariness remains. At the Village Market, an employee stood guard at the entrance and cast a watchful eye on the kids milling in and out of the store, just in case.