img Our History

The Launch Pad started as an idea that developed as a response to a series of community meetings regarding the needs of teens in the Quad City Area. With youth participation and voice and representatives from youth organizations and local schools, a strategic planning team was formed and The Launch Pad opened it’s doors for minimal services in November of 2013.  A local church, though not related to The Launch Pad, had been willing to let The Launch Pad utilize a room in a spare building for a few hours a day at the cost of utilities.  The Launch Pad has since moved twice, we currently reside on the Prescott College Campus until we find our forever home.


What the future holds for The Launch Pad:

The future is bright for The Launch Pad. In their permanent state of the art building, The Launch Pad will have a dance floor, stage, music production studio, an art studio and workshop space, a commercial kitchen, a cafe, computer lab, classrooms, conference room, outdoor space, offices, and a game room. At the permanent location The Launch Pad will be able to offer mental health care services, community workshops, and academic tutoring. The Launch Pad will also offer fun programs and workshops on topics like music production, visual arts, writing your resume, applying for colleges, cooking and nutrition, creative writing, building your own skateboard, and more. The future location of The Launch Pad will be a “one stop shop” for youth where you can come after school to find everything from a quiet space for homework, to a rowdy room, to play games in, volunteer opportunities, to interesting clubs to join. The vision of The Launch Pad and all it will offer is a community vision, inspired by long meetings, surveys, and interviews with parents, teens, and community members. Our dreams are big and they are achievable, especially with your help. Go to our Help Out page to find out how you can be involved.


Learn More about our Mission and Vision


The Launch Pad is a Youth Drive Space!

The Launch Pad Teen Center is a Youth Driven Space as outlined and adapted by The Neutral Zone Teen Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. The Launch Pad believes in centering youth voice and agency in all levels of programming and decision making. This philosophy of program design and operation comes from a study done through The Weikart Center in partnership with The Neutral Zone to develop the Youth Driven Space (YDS) project. YDS is designed to support out-of–school-time programs that serve older youth, implement a range of structures and strategies that foster 21st Century skill-building and meaningful civic engagement. Out-of-school time programs that adopt the YDS model learn to utilize the actual operation of their organization as an opportunity to build youth skills and increase participation and engagement. The time is right for an explicit and developmentally appropriate approach to skill-building for older youth. Given the drop off in participation that programs face nationally as well as increasing recognition of the importance of workforce preparation opportunities that prepare young people for participation in today’s labor market are needed more than ever.

YDS is designed to transform existing youth programs into youth driven spaces through four key areas:

•​Structural changes​. A youth advisory council is established which meets regularly to make and offer guidance on decisions about program offerings and organizational operation;

•​Changes to program design and implementation​. Youth members take on facilitation and other roles that adults typically take in a youth program, leading meetings and activities with their peers;

•​Revisiting adult roles​. Helping adults learn to build strong adult/youth partnerships is critical. Adults in YDS don’t simply step down and let youth lead, rather, they play an active supportive role in helping youth be successful;

•​Building sustainability​. Organizational changes are sustained by infusing YDS principles across the organization, with attention to governance and mission statements and by establishing deliberate support across administration, staff, and the broader community.

Proven Results:

An evaluation conducted by Michigan State University’s Community Evaluation and Research Collaborative showed that the YDS intervention produced powerful impacts on youth, staff, and organizations with just one year of direct work with pilot agencies. The results indicate that YDS had substantial effects on the development of youth partnerships and opportunities for involvement as well as on youth program engagement, peer relationships, and 21st century skills.

Youth Outcomes

• Youth reported significantly greater sense of community and engagement in the program and felt less socially excluded.
• Youth reported significantly more opportunities to explore their identities and reflect on who they wanted to be in the future.

• Youth reported significant gains in a wide variety of 21st century skills, with the greatest changes in problem solving, organizational skills, management skills, creative thinking and innovation, goal setting, group process skills, and linkages to community.
• During youth-adult meetings, youth were more likely to generate solutions, provide information, identify problems, and evaluate information.

• Youth, staff, administrators and coaches described YDS benefits for youth communication, critical thinking, and self-regulation skills.

All of the techniques in this handbook are tools for infusing YDS principles into your programming and work with teens. For more information check out The Neutral Zones website and resource section:​ http://neutral-zone.org/youth-driven-spaces/