That’s what I’ve been doing. Just playing around…with the kids in my program that is.
When I first started my job 1 year ago, I was excited about the opportunity but somewhat anxious about the school age program and most especially nervous about the teens. I mean, could I really run a program successfully with teens? My entire career has been wrapped around preschoolers, toddlers, and infants. My experience with school age was minimal at best!
While the children under 5 still continue to hold my heart, I quickly found that the school age children have a special place in it as well. I’ve found even more so that, while they have their challenges, the teens are truly an awesome group as well.
Yes, at times they make me want to beat my head against the wall and, often times, I find myself completely perplexed by some of their decisions. However, I am also finding myself truly enjoying that age and looking for opportunities to share with them and help them learn this crazy world that in a few short years (some of them just one year) they will be thrown in feet first and have to learn to navigate all on their own.
So, we take them to the baseball game and give them a budget to by whatever food they want. They then spend the entire time eating and, by the end, don’t even know who won the game…but they had an awesome time and isn’t that what really matters the most?
This last week, we surprised a teen that is no longer with our group by showing up to his varsity football game for his birthday. It was uplifting for both the kids we brought and the teen that we surprised; I think they all needed it. Plus, the school that most of our kids go to doesn’t have any sports teams; and those who go to school with sports teams don’t attend the games because they either can’t get to them or can’t afford the tickets (which are typically only $5-7 a game).
To watch them take in the game, the surroundings, and jump into the atmosphere is truly amazing!
We are getting ready to bring a group of them up to a live TV show taping…I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces!
We are also getting ready to take a trip to the Santa Monica pier and enjoy the festivities up there.
We’ve talked in length about what we offer the kids and, while we don’t do these things for the parents, we continue to do them for the teens. Why? Because if I can get just one of the teens to think, “I want to be able to do this and take my kids on these adventures” then I know that one teen will do whatever he or she can to be successful, bring in an income, and be able to break the cycle of homelessness for that family.
And to me, that’s how we will be successful in my program: when the teens successfully move out of the shelter and move on to live independently. I don’t expect them to be rich, I expect them to be hard workers, earn their own money, and be able to experience life and all that it has to offer.
So, all these experiences we are providing for these teens, all these adventures, while fun, inspiring, and awesome; there is purpose to what we do and a goal in mind.
What experiences do you like to give kids?
What is your favorite age group?
What experiences do you enjoy seeing through a child’s eyes?