Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a program (for the Spring Gardening Series) at Douglass-Truth from F.E.E.S.T. They are a local teen organization that’s gotten some national press, and believe me, they deserve it. The fact that they are all about food and social issues around food is clearly good, but it was the way they created an environment that blew me away.
They are all teens (and one teacher assistant) from Nova Alternative School. Here’s three of the teens who were there (the two 2nd and 3rd from left and the one on the end on the right). They came prepared to do a teen/adult program but the folks who came were mostly elementary kids who happened to be at Douglass-Truth. The teens turned their program on a dime to accommodate a different audience and did a fabulous job. One of the great things they do is set the “community agreements” at the top of the program.
- Don’t yuk on my yum. Self-explanatory, but what a great phrase, eh?
- Step Up, Step Back. The idea is that you step up, say what you need/want to say and then step back to give others a chance to step up. Many of us need this reminder!
- Participate fully.
- When a person is talking, pay attention.
What was great to watch was how the kids responded to these teens and how the FEEST teens responded to the kids and teens from other high schools. FEEST provided food at the top of the program: granola bars, apples (little ones, which I thought was great) and oranges. Two kids repeatedly threw their oranges in the air which the teen presenters tolerated much better than I would have (but I wasn’t running the show). The teens had no problem with this behavior but they did monitor the kids for paying attention to the speaker and raised the expectation when necessary by reminding them that it was in the community agreements. WORKED like a charm.
FEEST brought 4 herbs for us to explore and slowly brought our attention to every detail through our various senses, sight, feel, taste, etc. The kids responded to this unbelievably well. Really. They were over the moon about investigating rosemary, parsley, cilantro and mint. They were very focused on the task – I think it was because their views and responses were treated as though they really meant something. There was simply a level of respect from the FEEST teens to everyone in the room and the audience responded by taking themselves seriously (but not without a great deal of humor). After the program, one kid took a plate of parsley home with him and after he left the meeting room, shared some of it and some information about it with a Douglass-Truth staffer. From teen to kid to adult… Nice circle.
FEEST did a guided meditation, a community building ice breaker called “Common Ground” which was fun for everyone and let everyone get to know each other, showed a short video and created a strong, positive energy in the room that was truly amazing. Afterwards, they met with each other to go over what had worked and what thoughts they had about the future programs. I left them (reluctantly) to give them privacy to talk amongst themselves, but went back afterwards and they were in high spirits and feeling very good about themselves. I shared some of these same thoughts with them and they seemed genuinely touched to be so appreciated.
We could learn a lot from them. They have developed a culture in their organization that other groups would do well to study.
I saw something different in that room. These teens were prepared, poised, relevant and showed great leadership skills.
Teen Center Librarian