The following reflection was thoughtfully written by Meg Farley ‘24. Meg is a sophomore at Middlebury College studying Education Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. They are a part of the Privilege and Poverty (P&P) Academic Cluster and was a P&P Intern at Addison Central Teens in the summer of 2021.The Privilege & Poverty academic cluster pairs coursework focused on the causes and consequences of economic inequality with practical application through internships with local and national organizations. For more information on the Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster, visit their website or contact Jason Duqette Hoffman at email@example.com.
I’ve spent the past six months trying to figure out what to share with you all. This is a long time, even for an expert word-marinator like me, but it’s true. I started my work at Addison Central Teens (ACT) in June of 2021, knowing, like all Privilege and Poverty interns, that I must be prepared to write a CCE blog post at *some point* during my time of community engagement. It is now six months later… I am still working at ACT and am finally crafting my well-marinated blog post.
For those of you unfamiliar with the life-changing organization Addison Central Teens, let me introduce you two. ACT is a teen center located in Middlebury, Vermont that serves Addison County youth ages 12-18. We are a trauma-informed and LGBTQIA+ affirming space. Over the summer I served as a programming coordinator for their pay-as-you-can summer day camp and helped with drop-in hours after school. I currently lead their LGBTQIA+ group for queer and questioning youth.
There are many lessons I can write about: the importance of understanding the context surrounding direct service work; the value of learning in an intentional cohort; the necessity of empowered community involvement; why the CCE should get more financial support (only half-joking on that last one)… All of my lessons kept coming back to the same idea: why Addison Central Teen is life-changing.
I am not one to use the phrase “life-changing” lightly. ACT is very intentional about co-creating a space where people are comfortable existing in the way(s) they need to. The first thing we learn as staff is to treat the youth (and ideally ourselves) with unconditional positive regard. Of course this has its foundation in trauma-informed practices (reliability though consistent action and reaction is crucial, especially for supporting adolescent brain development for folks who have experienced trauma), but more than that, being able to enter a space where you will be accepted as you are and treated with unconditional kindness, care, and respect is life-changing for the individuals who share that space. If I had a space like Addison Central Teens available to me growing up, I would have learned to be okay with myself much sooner.
ACT is the most affirming space I have ever existed in. The lessons of that place empower me to continue co-creating affirming and inclusive communities because I now know a reality where those are possible. Trauma-informed practices are now at the foundation of how I interact with the world, and my time there fully affirms my calling to spend my life serving queer youth. I am now studying to become a high school health educator (with a priority of LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex education), and am stoked to spend much of my adult life being openly Trans represenation for youth like me.
It’s one of my greatest honors to be a part of a space like this. My life has truly changed.