One of the ever-growing programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area is the Teen Program that serves over 200 teens in the City of Albany, NY. The Teen Program offers a wide variety of activities for the teens, such as sport teams, college readiness programs, creative expression opportunities and more.
Last week, I was hosted at the Teen Program Fast Knowledge segment by the Teen Program Assistant Director Taylor Prince. Fast Knowledge is a 20 to 30 minute discussions with a group of youth about unconventional or controversial topics. Topics that aren't usually discussed in everyday conventional schooling. Participants are provided a safe space and experienced facilitators to talk about such topics. A space where voices are heard, experiences and knowledge are shared. Most importantly a space where opinions are voiced and respected.
This time the topic was Gay Adoption and many of the teens actively participated in the discussion. They discussed the different types of modern family dynamics. Some debated what dynamics would be better for adopted children and what factors make a good parent. Despite the brief time we spent discussing this topic, this conversation shed some light on related topics like, the evolution of the concept of family over time, child social-emotional development, communities role towards orphans, human rights and law making processes.
While opinions varied, I noticed their knowledge increased about gay adoption and their comfort level increased navigating each others experiences, values and principals. It was nice to see young people morph their thoughts and modify their views regarding perspectives they never considered or thought about before. If I had to give a theme to the 30 min hyper-conversations we had it would be ”change”. It is almost thrilling to see teens observe, acknowledge, discuss and conclude. Their minds were flexible and their humanity was raw.
Working in other departments did not gave me the chance to interact with the Teen Program. Today I realize the great importance of such programs to inner-city youth communities and the importance of organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs that contribute to the development of young people and the community at large.