The Future of Open Doors

Written by Jacob Sabourin & Madison Werley

Open Doors is facing some changes in the near future. Big, exciting, and perhaps overwhelming changes.

At the end of Spring Session this year, our lease at the Carlton Building was up, and it was time to make a decision whether or not to renew it. After much discussion we decided to start the search for a fresh space for Open Doors to call home. In the midst of our search, we received disappointing news: a grant we had been hoping to receive had been declined. Our financial situation was looking bleak.

The same day, Rebecca received an email from the Neutral Zone, a teen center in Ann Arbor. Their video below left us with goosebumps, and we realized Open Doors had the opportunity to serve teens in ways we had yet to fully realize.

So we visited the Neutral Zone, and witnessed their Youth-Driven Spaces model in action. We saw the incredible and impressive things the teens there are up to, and their pre-established model inspired us to develop a similar culture that would work for our own teen members. We spent the next few weeks working alongside our current teens to devise a plan for the future of Open Doors. Our conditions?

  • Be inclusive of teens of all backgrounds, whether they attend school or not.
  • Keep our mission of improving the lives of self-directed teens in Grand Rapids.
  • Give our members the power to create innovative programs of their own choosing.
  • Allow teens and adult staff to work together to make decisions on behalf of Open Doors.

We believe these changes will benefit the Grand Rapids community in ways heretofore unimaginable. By extending our services into after-school hours and flinging wide the doors to teens of all backgrounds, we will give them a safe, empowering place to call their own. We will be providing a youth community center, created and led by teens, for all teens.

This summer, Open Doors staff will attend a training session at the Neutral Zone on how to effectively create a Teen Advisory Council. We hope to establish our own Council to meet weekly throughout the summer to develop Open Doors into the kind of space teens in our area both want and need. Our current members decided they would like to spend these casual meetings around campfires, trekking through the forest, and otherwise adventurously traipsing.

Are you or a teen you know interested in joining us on our adventures to create an awesome space for Grand Rapids teens? We could use your input! Contact our Program Director, Jacob Sabourin, for more information or to get involved.

If you’re passionate about our mission and what we’re doing, you can also assist Open Doors through monetary donations, volunteering your time, or offering in-kind gifts for our space. Every bit helps!

Thank you for your continued support, and make sure to check back often to stay up-to-date on our progress.

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Eastown Street Fair

We had a great time at the Eastown Street Fair, talking about the Open Doors alternative to school to some very interested neighbors.  The Book Fairy joined us to give away her free books, and we developed on-the-spot free learning plans for folks.

Our Open Doors booth in front of the Hookah Lounge at the Eastown Street Fair.
We’ve had a perfect view of the Bangarang Circus Aerial Artists!
Our yard signs, chilling at the Street Fair.
P1090240 The Book Fairy was a hit with all ages.
Free Learning Plans
Lots of folks stopped by to hear about self-directed learning.
Flying in the silks — an aerial artist from Bangarang Circus
It was a great day at a great booth!

Free! May Community Events

The school year is winding down and spring is in full bloom, readying the world for summer.  As you think about school options for next year, this is a perfect time to come see how the world is our classroom at Open Doors.

Our Wild Edibles class takes a moment with the daffodils at Aquinas College.

Open House

Monday, May 12, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m..

Come to Open Doors for a tour and talk to the staff about how it all works.  Light snacks will be served.

Eastown is Our Classroom

Thursday, May 15, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Led by Director Rebecca Kirk, the group will meet at Open Doors, then explore how Open Doors teens learn in our vibrant community.  Local businesses with art and antiques, foraged wild edibles, Frisbee and hula hooping in the park, and your choice of snack from one of the many local restaurants, from Yesterdog to Kava House to Spoonlickers — Eastown makes a wonderful classroom!  We’ll see you there.

Free! April Community Events

April is here, and in West Michigan we can finally smell spring in the air!



What a great time to leave school and learn in the real world!  You can come see what that means at two Open Doors events that are open to the public.  We’d love to share our story with you.

Monday, April 14 at 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Open House:

Come take a tour, meet the staff, and ask your questions!  Light snacks will be served.  This is open to all curious community members, whether or not you know a teen who might be interested.


Thursday, April 17 at 7 p.m.

Eastown Walking Tour:

Open Doors is located in Eastown because it’s a great community with a rich history.  Come find out more — we’ll enjoy the spring weather, look at some historical sites, and end the evening at Spoonlickers for ice cream.  If the weather turns unpleasant, we’ll hang out at Open Doors and chat anyway.



Can’t wait to see you there!