North Point: On a mission to bring hope to Cook County youthFeb 09, 2022 04:47AM ● By Editor
North Point is located in the building that formerly housed Grandma Ray's in downtown Grand Marais. All photos: North Point
Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - By Rae Poynter - February 9, 2022
Community connections are important for people of all ages, and a key part of a healthy community is creating the opportunity for kids and teens to form meaningful connections. An organization that happens to be doing just that is North Point, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing hope to Cook County teens. Together with their partner organization TreeHouse – a Twin Cities-based nonprofit dedicated to ending hopelessness among teens – North Point offers activities and a gathering space for teens to hang out, learn, and grow together.
Brooke and Brad Shannon founded North Point in 2020.
North Point was officially started in 2020 by Brad and Brooke Shannon. Brad Shannon, the Executive Director, said that starting North Point was part of a lifelong dedication to working with kids and teens. He has a background in social work and pastoring, and both he and Brooke have experience in Christian camping. In fact, it was working at the Adventurous Christians camp on the Gunflint Trail that brought the them to the area just over five years ago, and they have called Cook County home ever since.
“Kids matter to our communities, and there’s a need to invest in kids’ lives. And when kids find hope, it impacts the whole community,” Brad Shannon said.
North Point has been its current location for almost exactly a year. Shannon said they had previously been renting space in the Grand Marais Art Colony’s Studio 21 and were considering buying a parcel of land in the Cedar Grove Business Park when they noticed the building that had formerly been Grandma Ray’s was up for sale. Three days later it was under contract, and North Point had found its home.
“It’s a great location, right here in downtown Grand Marais,” he said.
After the purchase, the next several months were spent renovating the building to transform it into a welcoming space for teens. Shannon said that they were intentional in creating a lower-sensory space that has room for indoor activities but also fosters a sense of mindfulness and calm. They have even refurbished the kitchen so that they can serve meals in the building.
The Shannons designed the North Point space to accommodate an array of activities, but one that instills calm and mindfulness.
Although starting up during the pandemic has brought its challenges, North Point officially opened in September 2021, and the Shannons have been working to create a variety of opportunities for teens and middle schoolers. Monday-Thursday afternoons are drop-in times when the space is open for teens to stop by after school to hang out, do homework, or just spend time between the end of school and other events. A youth group for 8th-12th graders is held on Monday evenings, which includes games, hanging out, and a chance to talk about faith. Tuesday evening is a support group for teens, which includes a meal and a place for teens to talk about their lives. North Point also hosts events, and has hosted the volleyball team, basketball team, and the football banquet.
The North Point space includes tables and chairs for study and meals, and "soft spaces" for conversation and relaxation.
“We’re super flexible to be here and ask what the needs are. Whether it’s programming, drop-ins, or support groups, we’re creating experiences,” Brad Shannon said.
In creating a youth-focused space, he said they are listening to what teens most want and need, and discuss topics that are most relevant to their lives. Some of the themes they have focused on so far include processing emotions, handling difficult situations, decision-making, and identity. But no matter what the discussion topic or activity, North Point seeks to help share Treehouse’s Three Truths: that you are loveable, capable, and worthwhile; that you are loved without strings and never alone; and that you have a future.
In becoming an integrated part of the Cook County community, Shannon said that the focus at North Point is on building bridges and being an asset to teens in the community in whatever way is most needed. This has included coming alongside others in the community such as the school district.
“I’m super grateful for my relationship with the school and the County because mentoring is a part of what I do, so it’s been great to walk with some of these kids and build relationships with them. We’re not trying to be a counselor, therapist, or social worker, but just trying to be present as a caring adult. Walking with these kids, I think we need more resources, not less, when it comes to investing in kids,” he said.
Looking ahead, the Shannons plan to continue the slow and steady work of building relationships and creating a safe space for teens. Some possible future ideas include offering more experiences for kids over the summer, such as utilizing the Boundary Waters or taking other outdoor trips.
“There’s endless opportunities, but we’re just starting with asking who are these kids, and what do they need?” Shannon said. “The kids open the door and we get to walk through with them, and we’re hopefully creating a little community that can grow.”
For more information on North Point, visit npyouth.org by following this link. https://www.npyouth.org