Over the past decade, Healthy Tomorrows for New Britain Teens has evolved from an obesity prevention program into a youth and community-led movement that is addressing some of the city’s most challenging health, education, and mental health problems.
With support from an initial Healthy Tomorrows Partnerships for Children Program grant in 2007, the program combined access to health services with an emphasis on youth leadership. A second grant in 2013 supported the establishment of a Teen Center, the YWCA House of Teens, a space where teens could access family planning, stress reduction, fitness, and other services, while also making their voices heard through advocacy for policy change.
Through one of their latest Photo Voice projects, a multimedia project that combines photography, discussion, and social action to address issues that the community is facing, the House of Teens determined that although the CTFastrak is an efficient way for them to access quick and reliable transportation to get to needed health, education, and career opportunities, they do not feel safe walking to the Fastrak station.
Based on the findings of their project, YWCA New Britain, Central Connecticut State University, the New Britain Chamber and the Community Health Center partnered to find out how they could best help this neighborhood that had been disconnected from development in the downtown area. With a grant from Invest Health, the groups went out and administered surveys at community events that showed the residents’ needs were in line with what the teens identified in their Photo Voice Project. The idea to establish a central place to bring services to this side of town was born, with the hopes that it would become a hub of connection and revitalization where teens and residents can access services from multisectoral partners, engage with their neighbors, and advocate for a safe, walkable, healthy, more vibrant community.
In June, the House of Teens found a new home at the East Side Community. The program now offers the teens classes in stress management, career and college preparation, and nutrition classes from mentors from the Community Health Center thanks to the new programming space.
“We’re hoping to look at the needs that community members expressed and establish programming that is tied directly to address each of those needs,” said Valerie Cammarota, Community Wellness Director at YWCA New Britain.
In addition to the Teen Center, there are motions in place to establish mental and medical health services, beyond the current screening services that are currently being offered, and classes that teens can take for high school credit.
Mallory Deprey, School Age Coordinator at the YWCA said, The East Side Community Center is a place our House of Teens participants can call ‘home.’ The expansion from one room in the basement of the YWCA to a four-classroom facility, and with partners joining in on the development of the center, proves to the neighborhood that we share a commitment in strengthening community involvement, increasing safety, and empowering residents in the East End.”
We’re very excited about the expansion of the program and the potential of our new space. Stop by during open hours to join us for a tour and to learn more about what we are working on. We’ll be happy to show you around.
This article includes information taken from an article written by Jayme Hannay.