I wanted to thank our Princeton Chamber of Commerce for honoring Second Story with the Organization of the Year award. Their support of business in our community benefits us all. It is especially charitable that they would recognize the efforts of an organization that exists purely to support area teens. Thank you to Chamber members who volunteer their time and talent.
If you were to visit Second Story, you would find a vibrant, busy and happy place. You would find a community of teens from all walks of life enjoying each other in conversation, projects, dancing, singing, basketball (it’s a big place), pool, eating and learning.
They organize contests and events together. They are currently choosing the paint colors in which they will be painting the rooms. They are putting together new shelving units for a dedicated crafting area.
A couple of times a month, they gather in the big room on the comfy couches to hear someone from Freedom House talk about what to do if you’re being bullied or abused, or to listen to a career military man talk about his experience, or to watch a looming demonstration, or to learn to knit, or any number of interesting and valuable talks and demonstrations. These are usually short, 10- to 20-minute meetings. (We are talking about teens, after all.)
There are weekly visits to the pantry stocked with donated items of every sort. Some kids grab snacks, others grab deodorant and laundry detergent.
The most important job of the volunteer is to just be there. The kids know that you are there for them because you care. You don’t have to be a counselor, or even consider yourself “good” with teens. Just having someone ask, “How was your day?” can make a difference.
In time, they come to know and trust you. In time, you come to know their names (lots of time, if you’re my age). Through spontaneous conversations, you learn of their joys and sorrows. They know you care because you remembered the test they were worried about last week, or you noticed their new hair color this week.
Dana, the founder of Second Story with her husband, Jeff Van Autreve, frequently tells the kids how unique each of them is, how much they matter, and how much we care.
Second Story is a refuge for some. For others, it’s all about fun and friendship. For all of them, it’s about a positive message of their worth.
Note to readers: Jan Walters is a board member for Second Story Teen Center in Princeton.