Celebrating Young Minds

Recognizing the importance of a third place

Hosted on the outdoor patio of Coupa Cafe, a sponsored local cafe in Downtown Palo Alto, Young Minds Celebrated, an event focused on highlighting youth minds by hosting them in third places. On Friday, April 31 2023, students ranging from fifth grade to high school seniors spoke their minds on various topics.  

“The reason why we are all here is so that the youth feel more supported, that’s what we should be focused on,” City Council member Julie Lythcott-Haims said in her opening speech. 

Lythcott-Haims says that Palo Alto is slowly losing its “third place” since the bowling alley and Antonio’s Nut House have been lost; she says as the city gets more modernized, it’s losing its real human connection.

“We, as a community, need more places where you can go, be recognized, be accepted, so people know your name,” Lythcott-Haims said. 

The third place she is talking about refers to sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s ideology that in life, people need to have a separate environment, apart from their school or work and their home. According to Oldenburg, these ‘third places’ are essential in the community to build feelings of a sense of place. 

Lythcott-Haims says empowering the youth by hosting events in these third places allows them to express themselves more accessible. Provided by Coupa’s cafe refreshments and food, Lythcott-Haims says that Young Minds Celebrated was integral to encouraging the next generation.  

“These types of events are so important for the youth to feel like they are being supported and heard within the community,” Lythcott-Haims said. 

Coupa Cafe’s President Nancy Coupal told Anthro that kids are the future and that letting them speak their truth is critical. Coupal thinks hosting these events should be done more often and permits us to show support. 

“Sometimes I think that if youth were in power, we would be so much better off,”

— Coupa Cafe’s President Nancy Coupal

“Sometimes I think that if youth were in power, we would be so much better off,” Coupal said. 

With a diversity of attendees varying from a violinist, two singers, a comedian, a letter to future environmental activists, and an empowering speech about political polarization within Palo Alto, the crowd was kept entertained on many different levels. 

A speaker at the event, Olivia Chiang, a Palo Alto resident, and student at the Nueva School in San Mateo said she appreciates how she was given the opportunity to speak about her own interest and political polarization. After the events in 2020 with the Black Lives Matter and abortion rights movement, Chiang said she was astonished by the polarization in our city. 

“I heard that Thanksgiving dinners were 30 minutes shorter due to differences in political views and that just shocked me, so I knew I needed to speak out,” Chiang said. 

Chiang spoke about her efforts to diminish political tension within the community, explaining how she wanted to advocate for more civil dialogue and youth engagement in politics. She is currently creating conversation guides to help these conversations become smoother. 

“Even though Palo Alto is amicable on the outside with their political views, there is still a lot of work to be done,” Chiang said. 

Chiang added that by being given the opportunity to speak her mind, she feels more comfortable expressing her interest. By going to a school far away from these sorts of events allows for a deeper connection. 

“The current atmosphere is just so inviting and I feel like I can speak my mind without being judged,” Chiang said. “It’s such an enjoyable experience and I would love to do this again.”