Avalon’s Teen Group is designed to be a safe space for all Avalon youth residents ages 12-17. We meet weekly at our Pauline Community Center for an hour or more on Thursday evenings. A typical day at Teen Group consists of snacks, group discussion, music, art projects, workshops, cooking lessons, video games, trips to Washtenaw Dairy for ice cream and occasionally, movie nights or field trips.
It’s refreshing to be a part of such an intimate space that fosters friendships, education, support, and community. The joyful sound of camaraderie that radiates from the room during friendly-yet-intense Uno and Connect Four tournaments causes everyone in the room to easily lose track of time. The youth and staff compete strategically for first place on the winner’s board, which can be found posted on the wall of the community center. The privilege of being able to share the teens’ space is something I’m very conscious of. There’s a mutual respect that Avalon staff share with the youth, which is demonstrated through our efforts and commitment to listening to their needs non-judgmentally. The teens appreciate having a space where they can be heard, accepted, and introduced to new and exciting experiences.
The partnership that Avalon has developed with EMU’s School of Social Work/Social Work 350 classes has played a huge role in strengthening Avalon’s youth engagement over the last two years. These EMU student volunteers have been very instrumental in assisting Avalon with providing resources and opportunities to the youth who attend Teen Group. Each group of students who have previously volunteered to work with our youth have ended their service projects with a renewed sense of gratitude.
I am fortunate enough to feel that same sense of gratitude on a weekly basis. I believe that the youth recognize Teen Group staff as trusted adults and ongoing support, even outside of Teen Group. The quarterly staff versus youth basketball game is gearing up soon for the kickoff game of 2017. The teens actually seem to enjoy challenging myself and staff from other departments to keep up with their energy on the court! This spontaneous tool of youth engagement has now become a tradition. I’m looking forward to creating new memories and sounds of laughter during upcoming youth events.
By Layton Price