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Serving Teens, Pandemic or Not!

Posted by Brian Schreiber on October 30, 2020
Shabbat Message from Brian Schreiber, JCC President and CEO

One of the most vulnerable populations emerging out of this pandemic are teens – an area of expertise and great focus for the JCC historically through the present.

While the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh was most agreeable to our request to release designated funding restrictions on teen programs this year (a joint area of great interest and partnership)  – that DID NOT mean that we would stop serving adolescents. We just needed to do it in a different way and in the context of the community we serve and the resources we have to do it. Our teen staff, who have joined other staff in taking on additional responsibilities since the spring, have been creative and innovative to serve this population that are getting “zoomed” out and searching to find their own levels of resilience to combat anxiety, loneliness, uncertainty, and physical health – like the rest of us.

You may have heard about the 20 teens down at our overnight camp in Morgantown, Emma Kaufmann Camp, for two weeks, but there is a lot more going on as we work to remain relevant and supportive with teens and their parents during this time.

Here’s but a sample of what’s going on (see pics below as well).

We are running a Diller Teen Fellows cohort this year – with roughly half the participants that we normally have.  This is remarkable considering the foundational elements of Israel travel and in person exchanges with our Israeli counterparts are questionable.

With the support of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, we have increased the number and geographic reach of teen Peer Engagement Interns who are in regular contact with their peers to find out what matters to them and how we can connect.  This has led to small, masked and physically distanced, in person programs like drive-in movies in the Kaufmann Building garage, an election day party on Tuesday, a Steelers tailgate party in South Hills.  This is in addition to their ongoing support (pre-pandemic) in addressing mental health supports for adolescents.

Later this month, we look to engage teens and their parents in a College Prep Series to help high school students and their families navigate the complex college search process at a time where universities are not recruiting and hosting campus visits in person.

And our desire for teens to engage in community service continues (without quite knowing what form it will take) as we begin working with the teens to form the J-Serve Steering Committee.

What are the 13 words of our JCC Mission Statement?

Nurturing People
Connecting Community
Each Day
Through Every Age
Inspired by Jewish Values

Living up to those words with our teens is alive and well – pandemic or not!

Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom, 

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