NECC’s ‘Quaran-Teen Team’ stays connected during pandemic
In an effort to stay connected during the COVID-19 quarantine, the North East Community Center set up weekly Zoom video calls with plenty of activities to engage its Teen Team. Photo submitted

NECC’s ‘Quaran-Teen Team’ stays connected during pandemic

MILLERTON — During any normal week, the students involved with the North East Community Center’s (NECC) Teen Team stay busy with a multitude of activities and projects designed to foster community engagement and build knowledge and self esteem within themselves, according to the NECC website at www.neccmillerton.org. Throughout the last several years, the Teen Team has served as an unforgettable experience for local youth looking to enrich their lives and engage in their community. Now, regardless of the distance imposed among members as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Teen Team, or “Quaran-Teen Team,” remains undeterred by the change in circumstances, instead working together to stay connected and keep active.

Following the Webutuck Central School District’s closure on Friday, March 13, due to COVID-19, all of NECC’s in-person activities were postponed indefinitely. Responding quickly to the changes, the Teen Team shifted its program to a remote platform, scheduling its first Zoom Council meeting in mid-March. Soon thereafter, NECC Teen Program Director Jackie Osnato said NECC staff members created an online survey to gauge the teens’ needs, and their interest in having virtual meetings. She said most of the students showed an interest in having game nights as well as keeping up with the team’s Restorative Circle practices, a program that allows students the space to express their feelings, questions and concerns about applicable topics.

Within the last few weeks, Teen Team members have unlocked a variety of technologies — such as Zoom video calls, texting and other social media apps — to keep in touch with one another and with the NECC staff during the pandemic. Since March 20, Osnato reported that 17 students have participated in at least one Zoom call. In addition to the students who are already registered as Team Teen members, the “Quaran-Teen Team” is currently open to all other students between the ages of 14 and 18 who reside in the Webutuck district. Those interested in joining can visit the Teen Team section of the NECC website or send an email to teenprograms@neccmillerton.org.

Along with keeping the broader community connected during the health crisis, NECC staff collaborated to ensure the Teen Team would have a diverse selection of activities throughout the quarantine. The staff has scheduled weekly Zoom calls with Teen Team members from Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. With Monday’s call focused on a meditation, Osnato typically leads participants through a 30-minute relaxation technique during the scheduled Zoom call. On Tuesdays, the focus shifts to playing digital games (such as Pictionary, Hangman, Two Truths and a Lie and Name That Tune) while on Wednesdays, the team meets on Zoom for a live gentle yoga class led by Osnato, a certified yoga instructor. 

Led by NECC Teen Program Assistant Meredith Hamilton, the Restorative Circle group is held on Thursdays, and Osnato said the students have been using the circle to discuss how the COVID-19 quarantine has impacted their lives. Students receive guidance in the circle from Restorative Justice Coordinator Claudia Abbott-Barish and Case Assistant Ellie Limpert, both of whom are employed by The Meditation Center of Dutchess County. Hamilton has also been studying restorative justice practices with The Meditation Center of Dutchess County.

As the Teen Team patiently waits for the coronavirus pandemic to come to an end, Osnato commended the members for working together to give each other support, regardless of the distance between them.

“Through the cohesive structure of the group and the endless dedication, communication and determination of each member, Teen Team will continue to be creative and share memorable moments together,” she said proudly. 

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