By Tina Jenkins Bell
The Beverly Area Planning Association has been working diligently to revamp its Teen Service Corps Program. At the kickoff event on October 22, 33 students were in attendance, eager to learn about the restructured program and offer their ideas to enhance it further. Mary Jo Viero, BAPA’s executive director, founded the Teen Service Corps during the pandemic when isolation and a multitude of other needs were prominent. BAPA was at the center of helping neighbors in need connect with local organizations with resources as well as giving teens something to do to help. Since its founding, area youths have tapped into their giving spirit to be major contributors to calls for help from community groups, seniors needing assistance and their own initiatives.
“I’m very excited to have our very first kick-off meeting be such a success,” Viero said. “We had a packed house with students representing so many different schools and so many different ages. They came with great ideas and were not shy about sharing. I think we have so much potential as a group to really make an impact on not only our community but others as well. I’m looking forward to witnessing the student’s individual interests and how they will connect with other students from different schools to create and complete a plan of action.”
Viero discussed the importance of community service to fulfill required service hours at school, but more importantly to help make their neighborhoods great places to live. She encouraged participants to discuss ways in which they wanted to give back. Some areas of interest included a basketball fundraiser to seed area organizations, a clothing and blanket drive, a network for helping seniors with yard work and technology, and an environmental task force dedicated to learning ways to protect the environment and teaching those strategies at their individual schools. Other ideas came up as well, including helping individuals with disabilities, cleaning up trash, and offering their language skills for translation purposes. “I thought that it was a really good introduction to what we’re going to be doing,” Graham Pinzino, a freshman from Jones College Prep, said. “I’m interested in the environmental stuff that was discussed. It’s our future. We need to protect it, and the (Teen Service Corps) is a great way to do that.”
Davia Douglas, community relations director, said, “It gave all the kids an opportunity to see how they want to impact the community and give them an outlet for succeeding.”
BAPA’s Teen Service Corps will meet on the second Sunday of each month throughout the school year. Meetings will feature motivational leaders from the area, time to work on community service projects of interest, and enable the development of leadership among Teen Service Corps participants.
Members will be expected to attend at least five of eight meetings to receive a participation certificate. A monthly newsletter will go out that offers an updated list of service learning opportunities. Other ways the corps might expand will depend on its members ideas and motivations.
“I always hoped that we would have a group of young people that cared about the community in the same way as BAPA,” Viero said. “The younger generation is our future, and I want them to understand the value of our community and be excited to give back. It’s something that I have dreamed about for a long time, and if the kickoff is any indication, I think we’re on the right track.”