Teens Take the Lead in Strengthening Families

The One Hope United Pickus Infant/Toddler Center, in partnership with the Alternative Optional Education Center (AOEC) in the Waukegan School district, has provided teen cafes since last year as part of the Strengthening Families program. On September 15 and 16, three teen parents participated in a Teen Café Training Institute along with 13 professionals from various agencies throughout Lake and Kane Counties. As a result of this training, they are now able to facilitate and host teen cafes both within our agency and through other Strengthening Families Illinois networks.

On October 13, we began a new series of teen cafes at AOEC and two of the teens took lead roles in facilitating this café. The feedback from the teens who participated captured the effectiveness of the facilitation by the teen leaders.

This café focused on ‘taking care of yourself’ and some of the comments were:
“I learned that you need to be careful who you surround yourself with.”
“It was hard at first to talk around people you don’t know, but then you begin to feel comfortable.”
“I feel better because I needed to talk to someone. I need to build positive relationships.”
“Keeping your family together is important.”
“You have to be strong in order to succeed.”
“I’ve come a long way.”

Some of the words they used to describe this experience were awesome, relaxing, inspired, motivating, encouraging and comfortable.

Bonnie Becker, director of programs for Strengthening Families, says, “My own word to describe the experience was ‘humbled’ and I truly was. I was so impressed with the commitment that our teen leaders showed and how seriously they take their role. This is only the first step in their journey towards real leadership, and I am so proud that One Hope United is able to support them in this way.”

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