Making Changes Camden reaches out to area youth

Teen support group to host public meetings

By Dwight Collins | Apr 09, 2014

Camden — A program designed to give local teens a safe place to express their feelings and meet with trained facilitators will host two informational meetings in April.

Making Changes Camden has scheduled the public information meetings for April 14 and April 28 beginning at 6 p.m. at Camden Opera House. The meetings are designed to help make the community aware of the new program.

“I think the power of this program comes from its low-commitment, informal, easy-access to a trusted adult,” said director Nate Larlee. “There are teens in this community that are contemplating changing some aspect of their life, but are unsure of how to start changing, and scared of how it would alter their social and mental and physical lives.”

Making Changes Camden began meeting in fall 2012, providing teens ages 14 to 19 in the greater Camden area with a confidential gathering space to share challenging life experiences, issues and influences and to move toward positive change individually and together, Larlee said.

Group meetings take place every Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the parlor room at Chestnut Street Baptist Church. Larlee is available for drop-in meeting at the church from 4 to 5 p.m.

According to Larlee, each week, a different community member makes a warm meal for the group to eat while they have their discussion. These meals are a big draw for the teens that attend the meetings and are often the reason they decide to walk in the door.

“My goals in the meetings are to give the participants a chance to be seen and heard. I am genuinely interested in hearing about how and why the have gotten where they are today,” he said. “I also think it is important for these teens to think about their life a little more reflectively. They don’t often talk to each other about the decisions they have made in a safe space like this.”

Getting the teens access to programs that will help them with a variety of issues such as truancy, drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness is a priority for Larlee and he said he feels the program will help a lot of people in the long run.

“My hope for this program is that the teens that come regularly will refer their friends to the program when they are struggling with a difficult life situation,” he said. “I continue to connect myself with counselors, homeless outreach counselors and substance abuse programs that can assist these teens with specific services.”

Facilitators are available weekly for drop-in meetings at The Rig, in downtown Camden, to discuss and help teens struggling with substance abuse -- their own or a family member's --, depression, positive decision-making and healthy relationships.

The program then connects teens with community resources outside Making Change meetings. A partnership with Camden Hills Regional High School, other teen groups and the county court system helps coordinate any required follow-up action.

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Dwight Collins
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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