Taking part in my community
April 17, 2015
Growing up in Glendale, I had always assumed that it was one of those perfect communities filled only with happy people. I thought that bullying only existed on TV shows and that all the teens were nice and lived well together.
It wasn’t until I got older and saw how much more fragile teens are that I realized how important the impact of a community is on someone. I realized that there are teens out there who need help and that our community provides excellent opportunities for anyone in need.
On March 27, I went to Pacific Community Center’s “Teen Night Out” to see this side of the Glendale community.
Walking in to the building, I approached the receptionist desk where no one was seated. There was no sign or any sort of indication as to where this event was being held. That same night, there was a talent show being held in the auditorium and I wondered if this had any correlation with the event I was supposed to be at.
Before I was about to enter the auditorium to see if that’s where I was supposed to be, I noticed an open door to what seemed to be a conference room. All I saw was a part of a small table with a couple of people surrounded by it. All I noticed were the backs of their heads and someone with a laptop, and so I had assumed that it was some sort of meeting. The entrance to the door was sealed off by a velvet rope, but I went past it and stuck my head in to ask if they knew about my event anyway.
Getting a more clear view of the room, I noticed it was fairly big, but only a small sector of the area was occupied. I asked if anyone there knew where this teen event was being held and, at the same time, about two people said, “This is it.”
That’s when I noticed that everyone there was fairly young and that they were looking down at the table because they were in the middle of playing a card game. Also, the girl with the laptop was just finishing up an essay. This was the teen event.
I wasn’t disappointed. I had just been expecting something different, and when I said “Oh, this is it,” they laughed at my reaction.
I was immediately greeted by Jackie Baliton, whom I later learned is the case manager of a program much bigger and more important than what I had initially thought. “Come on in, take a seat, we were just playing a game of Apples to Apples,” she said.
I took a seat and we all introduced ourselves. Everyone was very nice and welcoming; they had been attending this event, which is held every other Friday, longer than I have. I was one of eight other teens there.
We started a new game of Apples to Apples and I had to learn how to play, which wasn’t too hard.
For a long time, we just sat there in silence playing the game. I don’t know if it’s always like that or if it was just my presence that made it feel strange, but after a while, we got comfortable with one another.
We ate pizza and other snacks and drank some Tang. We also played ping pong and foosball which was located in an adjacent room.
After playing the games for a while, we all took a break and started doing our own things. This is when I really got to know everybody.
I learned that most of the teens there were attending to get volunteering hours. They were mostly home schooled and did other work for Jackie as well. One of the attendees, Nairy Haghnazarian, had been volunteering there for about a year now. Another girl, Jane Tabajyan, the one who had the laptop, had been coming for about a month already. “I come to do community service,” Tabajyan said. “There are a lot of different programs people can do that will count as volunteering hours.”
After speaking with Baliton, I found that this event is more than just a way for Glendale teens to hang out. It’s a program organized through the community’s Parks and Recreation Services department called the Youth and Family services, and, according to the Glendale website, it’s “designed to provide outreach, information & referral services, and case management to at-risk youth and their families.” This program provides a link to struggling teens and families with “supportive services” in the community.
This program is component of a bigger part of Glendale. “We work with GUSD and other agencies in Glendale as a link for families in the area,” Baliton said. “All of our services are free and we link these families with these agencies,” she said.
Baliton described to me in a hypothetical scenario of how the program gets involved with families in need. If police were to go to to a specific family continuously because of domestic disturbance calls, they would get the Youth and Family Services involved as a “hotline” to these families in providing “guidance in decision-making.”
According to the Youth and Family Services online brochure, the services they provide also include employment, health and wellness, legal issues, housing and education.
The Youth and Family Services Program is designed to provide “outreach, information and referral services” to families and teens in need, according to the brochure. “It is a challenge,” Baliton said, “especially because it’s a tough age group, but I do think that it’s good that the city offers a safe space for teens and youth.”
“Most of the kids I get are on probation,” Baliton said as her role as a case manager.
Teens who are on probation can also benefit from this program. The J.U.S.T system (Juvenile Ultimatum Service Training) gives teens the opportunity to complete “mandated community service hours” through the process of “restorative justice, community service learning, community protection and competency development process.”
After learning all of this, I realized the importance of community. I had never known that the Glendale’s Parks and Recreation program could provide a safe haven to teens in need. “Out of all of Glendale, this is probably one of the biggest and nicest community centers,” Baliton said.
The “Teen Night Out” event isn’t only limited to those who are on probation or want volunteering hours. Everyone is welcome and some just come for fun. Attendee Ky’ono Scott just started coming to the program because he said that homeschooling was becoming boring. “Even though I’m not volunteering, I just like to come,” Scott said.