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Unstructured Fun is Hallmark of Summer Teen Center

Socialization is the primary focus of the Massapequa School District’s Teen Center, a summer recreation program for students entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The five-week program is held at the high school’s Ames Campus.

Director Anthony Messina explained that the program’s open campus concept is different from elementary summer recreation, in which students are assigned to groups and have scheduled times for each activity. At the Teen Center, participants are able to visit the different stations at their own leisure. Mr. Messina explained that this helps the campers get to know each other better, as they will likely cross paths with everyone else at least once a day.

There are arts and crafts, game and movie rooms and sports in the two gymnasiums and outside on the athletic fields. While one group might be playing basketball in the gym, another group may be in the corner making lanyard bracelets. Everyone comes together while doing the activities they most enjoy.

All of the stations are overseen by college-age assistants, and most are Massapequa High School graduates. The Teen Center is open for six hours a day and includes special events such as pizza Friday, a dunk tank, Tropical Smoothie day and the blue and gold Olympics with field day-style competitions. There are also field trips.

Mr. Messina said that it is great to see students from three different grade levels bonding and having fun together, and those friendships continue into the year at Berner Middle School.

“I love all of the friendships and all of the bonds that I’ve created here,” said rising eighth grader Ellason M. When she reaches high school, she hopes to become a counselor for the elementary summer recreation program.

“I like how there’s a lot of new people I haven’t met before,” added eighth grader Kourtney G. “I get to make friends in all three grades. And the counselors are very nice and easy to talk to.”

Megan Kirtyan, a Class of 2022 graduate, is working her first summer at the Teen Center and said the experience will benefit her as she aspires to become a physical education teacher.

“I enjoy that all of the kids are great to work with,” she said. “They’re so enthusiastic. There are so many opportunities for them here.”

Megan said that the most popular activities among the campers include card games, making bracelets and playing basketball.

The camp averages about 100 participants per week, and many have been coming for the past three years. Nate K., who is entering eighth grade, said a lot of his friends come to the camp, so it is a good way to spend time with them over summer vacation. His favorite activities are basketball, kickball and ping pong.