SLIP Styling Away: Youth Group Organizes, Sponsors First Events

By CHRIS BURRELL

They call themselves The SLIP. That's the condensed form of a name that sounds like it was plucked from a comic book bubble: The Supporting League of Ideas and Projects.

A youth-driven group, their whole purpose is fostering creative outlets for their peers, giving Island teenagers an alternative to the weekend or summertime party scene.

"I'm sick of not having anything to do," said Kayla Leonard, one of the 11 teenagers who make up the SLIP leadership board. "I figured if I didn't want to go out to parties, we could put our energy into making something else actually happen."

Formed just four months ago, the league of 11 has already proven they're capable of more than just lip service. In the spring, they staged a concert at the Atlantic Connection nightclub in Oak Bluffs and raised $2,000.

They're planning to open a youth center in the old Edgartown School if town selectmen approve their proposed plans for the building, and tomorrow, the SLIP is presenting a battle of the bands at the Hot Tin Roof in Edgartown.

The show starts at 7 p.m. For $10, you get free soda and a lollapalooza of young Island talent: Eight bands are on the marquee, sporting names such as Pink Socks and Von Bismarck. Or at least, that's what the band names were as of yesterday afternoon. They keep changing, said Lyndsay Famariss, one of the adult coordinators who works closely with the SLIP.

Last Tuesday afternoon Ms. Famariss and 10 of the teenagers were knuckling down for a work session on a patio outside the Island Inn in Oak Bluffs. Unlike some other meetings that took place across the Vineyard last week, there was nothing boring or routine about this one.

Work got done, but it was done SLIP-style.

For one thing, there were refreshments. SLIP member Korilee Connelly had taken a detour to the Dairy Queen to pick up an ice cream cake for fellow SLIPster Nikki Brown, who had just turned 16. Charter school guidance counselor Becca Prager, who had already arrived with a tubful of pesto pasta, dashed back to her car to fetch a knife for cutting the cake.

Balancing cake plates and clipboards on their laps, the SLIP team focused on promoting tomorrow's show at the Hot Tin Roof. Jess Stone and Evan Kavanagh volunteered to show up for an interview on WMVY radio.

"I think we should start off by introducing SLIP and the idea of SLIP," said Jess Stone.

"Each person should say a certain thing about SLIP and why we're in it," added Ed Cisek.

They were still waiting on a supply of bumper stickers and posters. "Flyers work the best," said Miss Stone.

But weather and other technical difficulties can easily foil that brand of publicity.

"I stapled a bunch to telephone poles downtown, then it rained and my stapler broke," said Mr. Cisek.

The good thing about a SLIP meeting - and the SLIP members themselves - is all the laughter. They plan and joke and strategize and toss out one-liners.

Should they put an announcement on the community bulletin screen aired on cable channel 10?

"Who even watches that?" asked an incredulous Miss Kavanagh.

Money was another hot topic at the meeting. Can they negotiate with the Hot Tin Roof over the fee for renting the club, and what about the printer who's running late with the posters?

Alex Halbert, Miss Connelly and Miss Leonard were mulling over some high level negotiations about costs. "Let's get it down," said Miss Stone, then later cautioning her fellow members to tread "politely and nonabrasively" as they meet with club managers and print shop owners.

The bottom-line is no joke. They need the money to make other projects a reality - more concerts, a poetry-slam reading, a young chefs competition or whatever proposal one of their peers might toss on the table looking for funding.

And then there's the youth center. If Edgartown selectmen sign a deal to let them use the old school on a temporary basis, there will be clean-up, heating costs and a boiler on the fritz to worry about.

The SLIP kids have talked to their friends to find out what would lure them into a youth center. Food would be a big draw - that's one reason the old school site and its kitchen are so attractive to the youth group. But added costs would be televisions, computers and X-Box video game systems.

In its pursuit of funds, the group won a $4,000 grant this month from a Cape and Island youth development program. And they plan to sell T-shirts at the Agricultural Fair in August.

The SLIP is an arm of the new YMCA project on the Vineyard that's aiming to build an aquatics, fitness and youth center across from the regional high school. Last winter, the Island YMCA hired Ms. Famariss, a social worker, and Amy Lilavois, a mental health counselor, both of them experienced in working with teenagers, as the youth coordinators for the SLIP.

The goal for Ms. Famariss and Ms. Lilavois is to let the young people run the show. That means Miss Halbert is shepherding the T-shirt production and Whitney Singh is placing the newspaper ads.

The end result is a lively group of teenagers who are invested in their projects. As Miss Kavanagh put it: "Because it's run by kids, it's more interesting."