Author: Sarah Saydun, Cambridge Community Center Development Associate
In a recent interview on NPR, Dr. Daniel Siegel, a psychiatrist and Center for Culture, Brain, and Development at UCLA, stated that adolescent struggles are more than just raging hormones, they stem from a remodeling of the brain that makes them completely change. It made me reflect on what it was like to be that age – overwhelmed with stress from school, my family, my peers, and struggling to navigate all of the changes going on within myself. My mom used to tell me “don’t worry, high school won’t last forever”, half kidding, but fully empathizing, remembering her adolescent experience and the struggles she went through as an awkward teen trying to fit in.
Being a teen wasn’t all that bad, though. I explored, I took risks, and I was encouraged to be creative and pursue a career in Human Services. I had support from my sports team, my Girl Scout Troop (yes, I was a Girl Scout from age 7 to 18), a few passionate teachers who mentored me, and incredible parents who were there for me even when if I could be a jerk to them at times. In fact, a large part of what motivates me to work with youth is those positive experiences I had growing up. Without the support networks I had, I would have felt all the more lost, directionless, and unhealthy. I would probably have taken a completely different path in life.
Research has found that while growing up can be tough, adolescence is actually an extraordinary time in life when young adults grow and learn at an extremely rapid pace. More and more, those who work with teens are taking strength-based approaches to interventions, instead of viewing adolescence as just a rough time that everyone just needs to power through. Positive youth development models are designed to foster positive features in teens (and even young children) helping them build resiliency and identify the tools they need to thrive throughout adulthood. They celebrate adolescence and teach teens to be creative, courageous, productive, and positive.
Cambridge Community Center is full of teachers and mentors who are guided by this philosophy. They are committed to providing a safe, nurturing space for the youth that attend our programs, encouraging them to explore their passions and interests, and giving them tools they need to thrive through adolescence and to go out into the world after high school. The staff also uses the Nurtured Heart approach in the classroom, which focuses on positive relationship building and the individual strengths of each student. It’s the kind of place that I think youth of all ages should have the chance to be a part of.
Youth programs at CCC include: CCC Enriches for elementary school children, that includes dozens of enrichment activities from homework help to capoeira; CCC Inspires for middle schoolers that is designed to respond to the needs of 11 – 13 year olds and prepare them for high school; and CCC Empowers, that provides youth the opportunity to volunteer and gain valuable work experience throughout high school.
Interested in all of the programs that CCC has to offer? Check out more here: www.cambridgecc.org
Interested in parenting tips from Dr. Siegel’s interview? Look here: http://www.npr.org/2014/01/28/267608451/teenagers-are-crazy-but-expert-says-behavior-is-vital-to-development
Other sources: The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development