The Teen Resource Center began in 2003 to provide local Asian American and immigrant teenagers a safe and fun space to hang out, support each other, and gain accurate information about health issues—ones as varied as acne, sexually transmitted diseases, stress management, puberty, and minors’ confidentiality rights. The Center then gives teenagers the tools to advocate for themselves and help to empower others. With help from the Margarita and John M. Hennessy Family Foundation, the Teen Resource Center quickly expanded from a loosely organized space for teens (and run by informed and trained teen peer counselors) into an integral part of the larger Health Center’s Pediatric Unit, which serves patients until the age of 21.
One of the earliest programs at the TRC was a teenage prevention program funded by the New York State Department of Health. While public health data shows that Asian American teen pregnancy rate is lower in comparison to other groups, the health center’s pediatricians are seeing increasing numbers of pregnant teens. (While the participant population is overwhelmingly Asian American and low-income, everyone is welcome.) Because many of the patients do not seek health services at major hospitals or other medical institutions, and because some patients are undocumented, some of the public health statistics on Chinatown’s youth population are not accurate. The TRC seeks to help teenagers research, develop, and share programs that meet the needs and address the public health issues they see firsthand, in their own neighborhoods.
Susan Yee, Associate Director of Programs at the Health Center, talks about the Teen Resource Center in this video:
TRC activities currently comprise of four key programs. First, the Teen Advisory Committee (TAC) holds monthly meetings to make sure that TRC materials are teen-friendly, both in content and in style. Second, the Teen Health Advocate Group receives training on both informal advocacy (such as how to advocate for one’s rights in the public schools system) and formal advocacy (such as talking to City Council members on certain issues, or participating in World AIDS Day). The teenagers form subcommittees that focus on tasks like media production and writing, and they conduct street outreach in local parks and public areas on researched topics such as HIV and smoking.
Third, teen health educators develop and conduct programs like basketball and handball tournaments for the community over the summer, school-based workshops, and one-on-one counseling sessions for Charles B. Wang Health Center patients. Fourth, community service learning program interns work at partner organizations on separate issues and conduct a group project together on life skills, such as stress management. Towards the end of their internship, they hold a public Teen Talk Forum at the TRC to share and discuss insights with a large group of teenagers on self-esteem issues.
In all of these programs, the youth themselves conceive and develop all of the projects. Along the way, they receive training from outside lecturers on topics such as birth control or skills such as video editing. While the TRC works with a core team of 20 to 30 teenagers at any given time, it annually serves roughly 2,000 teenagers per year, and it estimates that it has served 5,000 local teenagers in the past five years.
For more information, visit the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center website or the Teen Resource Center website, with information about their programs and services, a Q&A section, photo galleries, newsletters, resources for parents, and events listings.