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Cyber Café clicks with students

Echo Press photo by Celeste Beam Jefferson High School seniors (left to right) Kelsey Olson, Laura Lambert, Alicia Montbriand and Liz Billberg studied in Jefferson High School's new Cyber Café. The café is located in the media center and was designed as a comfortable place for students to hang out and study.

It's definitely not your grandfather's library anymore. Nor is it your father's or mother's library, either.

In fact, the library at Jefferson High School (JHS) is no longer even called a library. It's a media center.

And it - the media center - is considered an environment where kids want to stay, hang out and feel connected, according to Chad Duwenhoegger, principal at the Alexandria high school.

Students cannot only check out books, which are found on a few shelves in the corners of the media center, they can check out laptop computers and use them in the media center's all new Cyber Café.

The Cyber Café, which really isn't a café at all, but merely a place with café-style tables, a couple of couches, comfy chairs and an oversized ottoman, was created by Jefferson's Group 212.

Group 212 is a student leadership team with about 30 students, who meet on a regular basis, according to Duwenhoegger.

Last July, during a retreat with the 212 students, Duwenhoegger said the idea for the Cyber Café was born. Students were asked what they thought the "world's greatest high school" looked like and the picture included a space similar to what is now found in the media center.

Painted in rustic, jewel tones, the Cyber Café is also a place where student artwork is displayed - from paintings and papier-mâché masks to digital photography. It gives students a place to be noticed, said the principal.

Kelsey Olson, a JHS senior, said the space in the media center designated as the Cyber Café is similar to a coffeehouse or college commons area and that it has a relaxed, laid-back feel to it.

"It's a cool place to hang out and study together with your friends," said Olson.

Liz Billberg, another JHS senior, said the café is a place that incorporates all cliques within the school.

"It's really a place for everybody," she said.

Laura Lambert and Alicia Montbriand, two more Jefferson seniors, who are in Group 212 with Billberg and Olson, agreed about the space in the media center being for all students.

The girls said the Cyber Café is a kick-back place where they can think freely and don't feel under pressure.

Mark Ripley, who oversees the JHS media center, is surprised by the number of students who are at school early - as in 7 a.m. - to use the space in the Cyber Café to study or do homework.

He said if he's even a couple minutes late, he gets grief from the students who are waiting for him to open the media center.

"There can be anywhere from 40 to 50 students in here," said Ribley. "I never expected that."

In the morning, the Cyber Café is open from 7 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. and then after school, it is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In the Cyber Café, students can also purchase coffee, which is made by Ripley each morning. Hot chocolate is also available to purchase, but Ripley said he doesn't sell a lot of coffee or hot chocolate. On a typical day, he might sell two or three cups of coffee.

Duwenhoegger noted that before changes started taking place in the media center, a query was taken about how many of the books were being checked out. Results indicated that 80 to 85 percent of the non-fiction books had not been checked out in the last 10 years.

Although it was once a library, where hundreds of books took up much of the space, the JHS media center is now a place where students can get up-to-date information through use of computers and the Internet.

Books can still be found in the media center, Duwenhoegger said, but noted that most of them are fiction or books students read for pleasure, not for doing research.

Regardless of what is found in the media center, students are using it and that makes their principal and teachers happy.