By Amanda Moses
Spring Creek Towers’ (SCT) Teen Central (TC) has always been a safe and educational social hub for middle schoolers and high school students in the community. Throughout the year, the teens were able to unwind after school within the TC office in the lower level of the Brooklyn Sports Club (BSC) to play games, learn arts and crafts, and participate in sports. In March, everyone’s world was turned upside down when the city was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools, gyms, and many other locations were closed as individuals were asked to shelter-in-place. For children and teens, it was almost like being in the Twilight Zone.
SCT Youth Programs transformed this difficult situation into an outlet to reach out to the children and teens of the community through the audio/video platform, Zoom. “TC Online has morphed into a ‘Think Tank’ where the creative create, the camera shy have a voice, and the outspoken have a platform,” said TC Director, Lonai Mosley. “In a time of uncertainty, mandated quarantining, and striving to achieve the ‘new normal,’ TC is still that familiar safe zone, where teen members can just be. No expectations, other than to deepen a connection with the community, they don’t physically see, but just be.”
The TC Zone Online has provided activities to keep the youth of the community entertained and is a safe place for teens to debate and share their thoughts. “Like feeding medicine through candy, distance learning has been sourced from sweet spot innovative concepts, as TC staff still pays it forward, mentoring youth and lending an understanding ear of support,” Mosely said.
At different points throughout the online programming, the teens slowly came out of their shells. They shared their aspirations for the future, their concerns for the present, and their questions about the past. Some members were so shy that they didn’t want to be shown on camera during the Zoom sessions, but this did not deter them from debating and having their opinions heard. The teens were able to articulate their ideas and they were shown how to support claims with facts.
Elias is a member of TC and the Spring Creek Youth Orchestra. He never turned on his camera during sessions, but as he worked on projects with TC Zone Online, he became more open. He filmed himself playing the trumpet, and prepared himself for his first journalistic interview. His mother, Jennifer was so thrilled and proud of his achievements. “I’m thankful to TC for providing the platform support to him and helping him overcome his shyness and preparing and training him to realize and make a dream come true,” Jennifer told TC staff.
On June 24th, all of these amazing activities were showcased during the SCT Youth Program’s End of Year Performance. Elias’ interview was one of the many TC Zone Online projects displayed in a promotional video. His father, Richard, tuned in to watch the virtual extravaganza from another state and he was able to see his son’s talents on full display. “Go Elias! We are so proud of you,” Richard said cheering from the Zoom presentation’s chat.
Also included in their segment, were video clips of the team (Mosley, TC Teaching Artist, Eileen Level, Recreational Specialist Juan Rosario, and TC Recreational Assistant Gavin Edey) playing brain teaser puzzles, learning to DJ on digital turntables, engaging in tech cyber bullying clinics, PS4 gaming, virtual board games and virtual world tours. Their promotional video emphasized that TC has breakout rooms for diverse likes and interests, where five days a week, from 5pm to 7pm, the TC staff greeted teens, inquired about their digital schoolwork, and provided fun activities and projects for them to participate in.
TC Teaching Artist, Eileen Level, said, “My experience transitioning to an online platform from our very active onsite center was somewhat of a whirlwind! We met the new challenge head on and whipped up a robust online program within a short amount of time thanks to the dedication of our entire team. Our first ever online teen program was one of the most rewarding experiences of my year thus far, allowing me to build relationships with our teens that I had never had before. We explored a plethora of virtual games which encourage friendly competition and often led to many laughs across the screen. Lastly, I was finally able to create and lead my first ever Anime Club, which truly welcomed teens that have an insatiable passion for Japanese arts and fandom!”
Screenshots by Amanda Moses