The Teen Reach Program was started nine years ago, originally at Fairfield School for one year before moving to the Morrill School, where it has stayed since. The program works to give students in grades five through eight a productive environment to stay on top of their academic work and provides them with positive mentors and outlets for expressing themselves. The young people can build relationships through the program that last them the rest of their lives.
Each day is divided into three different parts. Beginning at 3 pm, the first hour and fifteen minutes (“The Homework Hour”) is dedicated to giving the students a productive space where they can do their homework and receive help or extra learning if they need it. The next segment allows the kids to run around and make use of the large field and playground of the Morrill School, as well as eat a meal and hang out with each other and their mentors. Finally, from 4:45 to 6:00, the young people have classes. The classes are taught by community residents, and their goal is to find overlap between the childrens’ and adults’ interests in order to give them a shared activity to learn through. This can be anything from music, art, science experiments, or other expressive interests. The program also takes one field trip a month, and provides the kids with spaces to discuss complex issues such as their gender circles on Tuesdays, which separate the kids into groups by gender and lets them share in a group of their peers.
Jasmine Serrano, who has been in charge of the Teen Reach Program since 2016, is not alone among the staff in having grown up in the area. In fact, a vast majority of the mentors in the program are homegrown parents, teachers, or members from the community. This further builds the strength of the program because it provides young people with positive examples of people who grew up in a similar situation as them in the neighborhood.