LYNN — It’s tough being a teenager, especially when a kid hits middle school. Kids, age 11 to 14, are itching to exercise their independence. Yet there’s a need to fit in, and that peer pressure might lead to bad decisions that can put them in danger or affect the rest of their lives.
Since 2009, Family & Children’s Service, through its free, innovative Teen Scene afterschool and summer enrichment program, has had great success keeping Lynn kids in grades 6 through 8 on track.
Thursday afternoon, Teen Scene staff, participants and family members celebrated at a 10th anniversary party at East Baptist Church on Western Avenue. A short ceremony featured a photo slideshow of kids having fun on summer field trips, a few short speeches by staff members, and five girls performing a dance routine. Then everyone went outside to play family-friendly lawn games, wolf down burgers and hotdogs, and enjoy ice cream on a hot, humid day.
Since 2009, Teen Scene has provided tutoring, homework help, music, arts, crafts, science labs, mentoring, leadership development, and lots of field trips to more than 500 Lynn youth. Teen Scene programs are held at the community-based nonprofit organization’s headquarters at 11 North Common St.
Maroli Licardie, executive director of Family & Children’s Service, was one of the program’s founders a decade ago. The program has evolved considerably, she said.
“The curriculum has changed,” said Licardie. “Youth recruitment at the start was a challenge, and participation of high schoolers was encouraged. Along the way, we decided that middle schoolers were most at risk. That’s a crucial age in regards to development, so that became Teen Scene’s focus.”
Associate Director Ruben Montano said, “Teen Scene has been one of the few free academic enrichment programs in the city. We intentionally focus on middle school-aged youth, which allows us to tailor our intervention to that specific age. These are kids who don’t always receive adult supervision because they are old enough to be left alone, but they still require attention, support, and guidance.”
The Lynn Police Dept. has been a strong supporter of Teen Scene since its start, Licardie said. Officers counsel the kids on such important matters as avoiding gang activity and youth violence. Several officers attended the celebration and were fully engaged in light-hearted conversations, many initiated by the teens.
Licardie said many kids who take part in the program, go on to become mentors when they enter high school.
Although Neil Daniels was not a Teen Scene participant, he was a mentor from 2012-15. He and other mentors and counselors, past and present, attended the celebration. The program has had a positive impact on countless lives, including his own, he said.
“It’s amazing to see Teen Scene is still going strong, and making such a difference for this diverse group of kids,” he said. “When I started as a mentor, I was a sophomore at English High, still discovering myself, and learning how my love of art, creativity, problem-solving would fit into my journey. The kids had such a positive impact on me, too.
“Teen Scene helped me with my own self. I became more open and discovered passions I had. I realized I loved helping people. This program had a direct impact on my life.”
The 2014 English High grad went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology. He works as a designer at JACA Architects in Quincy, with a focus on health care.
“The kids were such an inspiration to me. To see these kids grow up and mature, is so rewarding.”
As mentor, Daniels and four Teen Scene participants went to India, after the environmental program they created was selected as one of two winning U.S. programs in a United Way Youth Venture contest. They got to meet and talk with students and young adults from countries throughout the world. “I’m still friends with a couple of the kids from that trip,” he said.
Teen Scene’s mission is to aid in reducing teen violence by providing a safe place where youth are motivated to discover new experiences, engage in activities that will build assets, resiliency, social skills and excite them about learning. The Family & Children’s Service website states: “We believe that project-based learning will be beneficial to the academic and professional development of the teens we serve as they grow to be the new leaders of our community. Continued academic support, violence prevention and enrichment activities help students see an improvement in grades and have an easier time dealing with the pressures of adolescence and school, allowing them to increase their community connections and involvement.”