Arch Street, the Greenwich teen center, is now the longest running teen center of its kind in the United States. Established 20 years ago, the Center has succeeded beyond expectation. Why has it lasted this long? Because Arch Street offers teens a place to relax, a place to learn, a place to create, and a place to have fun.
Kyle Silver, the Executive Director of Arch Street, said that when he was searching for a job after college, he wanted to work with young people and replicate the sense of community he felt when he worked in camps during his summer vacations. Since he liked this area, he advertised in the Greenwich Time and the New York Times. Among the 40 responses he received, Arch Street stood out. After 17 years with the Center, Silver still can say, "This job has been incredibly fulfilling."
When he talks about the students who frequent the Center, he speaks with pride and satisfaction. Many of the teens who have been members have gone on to good jobs that reflect their time spent at Arch Street learning how to handle events, how to make films, how to help people. One of the students received an introduction to Congressman Chris Shays through the teen center and ended up working in his congressional office. Another, who works in advertising, thanked Silver for training her in promotion and event-planning. Still another who hung out at the Center is now an actor on a popular television show. Others are working with non-profit organizations and the list goes on.
Because Arch Street is for teens, their functions are drug- and alcohol-free. Sometimes teens try to break rules, but extremely few incidents have occurred during those twenty years and the staff and volunteers are always alert. Silver mentioned that if he cannot sleep at night worrying about a student, he knows it is time to reach out to the parents and the parents always "circle back" and thank him, as does the student. It is really touching to hear Silver talk about the teens and how much he respects them.
In a time when many organizations are seeking members, Arch Street's weekly attendance is up 52%. Who wouldn't want to attend a hip-hop class or a school of rock class? If a teen wants to record his or her original music, Arch Street provides a recording studio for the budding musicians. And then there is the film-acting class. Silver emphasizes that they offer classes not found in the schools. Although there may be drama classes in a school, film-acting requires unique skills so they focus on that.
Also, Arch Street has a range of local DJs, groups from Greenwich High School and Brunswick, who perform at their high school nights and sometimes the hip-hop class will show their stuff during a dance. Besides their fun activities, the members of Arch Street spend their Thursday afternoons volunteering at Neighbor to Neighbor
Now with a new twenty year lease in hand, Silver and the student board and the adult board are planning celebrations. So, on June 4, if you see lots of teens marching through town, you will know they are on a "March for the Arch," with the high schoolers ending up at a rock band concert at Greenwich High School and the 7th and 8th graders going back to Arch Street to meet with a gala celebrity (still a secret) and Greenwich DJs.
The town's gratitude and congratulations go to Kyle, the adult Board of Directors, and the Student Board of Directors for putting Greenwich teens on the map! To check out what's happening at Arch Street, visit www.archstreet.org or Facebook or Twitter.
Ann Caron is an author of books on adolescence and a parent-educator. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.