Since the beginning of the quarantine, our Teen Director, Stephanie Urio, has stayed in touch with our teens on a regular basis, calling to check on their physical and emotional well-being. The teens have shared their sadness about missing friends, school, the Club, and all the traditional spring events that were cancelled. Despite these challenges, Stephanie was pleasantly surprised by their resilience as a group and the strong desire they expressed to keep their Keystone Club going, improvising, and finding safe solutions to achieve their goals.
Zooming in to Kids’ Well-Being
Keystone began the month of April with their first virtual Zoom meeting. They were happy to see each other and excited about the prospects of moving forward with their plans. To start the meeting, Stephanie invited a special guest speaker from the Long Island Crisis Center. “Before we could effectively help others, I explained to the members, it was important to make sure we were all feeling strong and getting help ourselves,” said Stephanie. The guest speaker started with an emotional check in, comforting the members and offering positive coping skills to use in life and, particularly, in a time of crisis. The members were fully engaged, asking questions and expressing their thanks. It proved to be a great way to kick off virtual Keystone and to keep the members connected.
Earth Day Celebration
For their first project during our “shut down,” the teens partnered with the North Shore Land Alliance to celebrate Earth Day. The idea was for our teens to learn about the environment and how to preserve it, while having fun. Alliance representative Jane Jackson suggested several local preserves that were still open for walks and taught the teens to identify local wildlife and native plants, while discussing ways to practice conservation at home throughout the year. The members enjoyed an Earth Day scavenger hunt designed to get them outside, experiencing nature, and taking pictures of everything from litter (bad!) to flowers (good!). The animals seemed to be the hardest thing to find, proving reluctant to show themselves or to be part of the celebration. The teens persevered and the scavenger hunt was a hit. The winners of the competition were awarded with a pizza delivery to their house.
Helping Families in Need
Later in April, the teens held a successful virtual Bingo Fundraiser. Originally planned to support their trip to the Keystone Conference, the fundraiser was converted to a virtual event to help feed local families and children in need during the crisis. The members planned and advertised the event. They invited staff, alumni, and their peers. One silver lining was that some people who wouldn’t normally have been able to participate were able to log on and play. Nicole Luengas, a former Keystone member, supported the current members by playing from her dorm room at SUNY Buffalo. After some lively competition, the event raised $255 and proved to be a positive lesson in turning disappointment into something great, all for a good cause.
Lessons in Emotional Wellness & Paying it Forward
Each year the Club completes a National Keystone project and this year the call to action focused on Emotional Wellness. Keystone Clubs across the country were charged with working to support their peers and to help them develop coping skills. The theme was particularly apt during the pandemic. The teens began the project in February, opting to create a PSA to let teens know that they are not alone and that it is okay to seek help. The members started the project in February, adapting as COVID limited their options and reframed the narrative. The script had to be updated to reflect the new reality of social distancing and members filmed their individual segments at home. Anthony Aguilar added the voiceover and Joe Valli wrote and performed the original piano music for the background. Everything was submitted to Jimmy Mejia who edited and spliced all the pieces together.
In early May their PSA was completed with the hope of reaching other teens who are struggling, encouraging them to call the Long Island Crisis Center.
May and June brought new chances to serve their community. For Memorial Day, our Keystone Club found a way to honor those who have gave all for our country by writing thoughtful messages and placing flags in front of the Club. It was a beautiful expression of thanks.
In June, Keystone ran a food drive on two Thursdays to collect supplies for NOSH, a local organization that serves local families in need. Keystone also participated in a Cycling for Change Freedom Ride fundraiser. In the face of COVID, their annual bike race was adapted to include stationary bikes, running, and trail biking, all to raise funds to help end human trafficking and exploitation in the world. We look forward to following the good works of our Keystone Club throughout the year.