The Somerset Hills YMCA launched a new teen adventure program, and it's been well received by teen and parents alike.
On the first of this month, the Somerset Hills YMCA launched a teen adventure program for 7th and 8th grade students. Joined in partnership with The Boys’ Club of New York and Frost Valley YMCA, the Y’s first event offered an overnight adventure at Camp Cromwell in Martinsville, New Jersey, with the participation of 26 young teens from the Somerset Hills area.
The teens arrived at Camp Cromwell on Friday, Feb. 1, and were immediately engaged in ice-breaker activities to get to know the Y counselors, to learn about each other, and to understand the guidelines for the event. The evening activities included a ‘capture the flag’-like game with camouflage and flashlights, a brainstorm session for the teens to feel a sense of ‘ownership’ of the program, a campfire with s’mores and a lively game of dodge ball. The morning hours brought additional fun with some teens involved in geocaching and others who gained outdoor living skills by building ‘lean-to’s’ from items they found in the woods. After a full night and morning of exciting activities, parents picked up their children at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“This was a great beginning for this new initiative. Our partners contributed much to the success of the first event,” said Abbey Arwady, Director of Youth Development at the Somerset Hills YMCA. “Frost Valley YMCA’s staff brings years of expertise in youth programming and outdoor education while Camp Cromwell offers beautiful grounds and facilities. Everything resonated so well with the teens.”
More adventures to come
The overnight adventure was the first in a series of programs the Y will offer to 7th and 8th grade students. The teen initiative was launched by the Somerset Hills YMCA in response to an identified community need to offer middle school students exciting activities that challenge them, allow them to take healthy risks and put themselves out of their comfort zone. Data collected from in-person interviews and surveys conducted by the Y, as well as results from surveys given to teens in the Bernards Township schools, paint an alarming picture of disengaged teens turning to substance abuse at a higher rate than the national average. Through the teen initiative, the Y’s goal is to promote self-esteem, healthy habits, self-regulation through enriching activities and positive role models.
“Our hope is that this program will act as a safe haven from risky environments,” said David Carcieri, President & CEO of the Somerset Hills YMCA. “We see the programs and activities as having life-enhancing values but, from a young person’s point of view, they see them as simply fun.”
Additional programs are currently being planned. Ideas for future events will be based on the teens’ feedback and interest, some of which was surprising, such as teen gymnastics, go-karts, laser tag, skiing, photography, working with animals, community service and one to two night camping trips.
“Having a chance to do fun things outside in the winter was great. We made new friends by being all together and having a chance to hang out without electronics,” explained 7th grade student Thomas Scarola of Basking Ridge. His mother, Windie Scarola, added, “Thomas’s only complaint was that he wished they had more time, he didn’t want to leave!”
Alex Kokino, another 7th grade student, also of Basking Ridge, said of his experience, “I loved playing games around the campfire. The counselor saved the ashes so we can use them to build a campfire on our next adventure.” Alex’s mother, Caroline Kokino, mentioned, “I think this program provides balance in the kids’ lives. It allows them to play and be kids again.”
The next teen adventure program will take place on March 8. For more information, please contact Abbey Arwady, Director of Youth Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-766-7898 ext. 342 with any questions.
As a nonprofit, the Somerset Hills YMCA ensures that everyone can learn, grow and thrive through the Y’s programs and services. Financial assistance is available thanks to the Y’s Strong Kids Campaign that, last year, provided over $850,000 in scholarships and program support to those in need within the Somerset Hills community.
For more information about the Somerset Hills YMCA, please visit www.somersethillsymca.org.
For more information about Camp Cromwell, please visit www.bcny.org.
For more information about Frost Valley YMCA, please visit www.frostvalley.org.