Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Featured Profile: Teen Resource Center in Chinatown
By Celina Su

 

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.

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
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