Island native takes the reins as the new teen coordinator
Molly Conlon, a lifelong islander, will be the new person in charge of the Jamestown Teen Center. The new teen coordinator replaces Debbie Tungett, who left for a job as coordinator for an after-school program in Newport after holding the Jamestown gig for four years.
“I hope to create strong relationships with the teens and their families, and make it so they’re excited to come to the teen center and feel safe and welcome here,” Conlon said.
Conlon attended both Jamestown schools and graduated from North Kingstown High School in 2006. Following high school she attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she studied early education and got her bachelor’s degree in 2010.
The new teen coordinator, who started on March 19, worked at the Jamestown summer camps for three years and began work at the teen center in October 2010. Before becoming coordinator, she was a youth counselor. Conlon worked as an assistant to Tungett, helping her with a variety of activities that are offered at the center.
The programs that Conlon worked on in her previous role included last year’s Skatefest, several dances and the youth leadership group – Adolescents Making Plans for Teens (AMPT).
Since settling into her post, Conlon’s brain has been busy trying to come up with new programs and activities to keep teens interested and coming back. “I’ve been brainstorming ideas while I’m driving and while I’m at home eating dinner, trying to think of some things that will keep the kids wanting to come in here and hang out,” Conlon said. “I’ve been thinking about activities like a ping-pong club or a craft club. I’ve been trying to ask the kids what their ideas are. I throw out ideas and see if they like them, because really the whole point is to do stuff that they want to do. I want to make the space really comfortable.”
Conlon will continue working on the AMPT program. AMPT is a group of approximately 15 students who meet every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. and plan service projects and social and community events. “It basically encourages leadership,” Conlon said. AMPT is currently working on a community event, which will likely be a cookout.
One popular new activity at the center is the dodgeball club, which is open to middle school students on Wednesday afternoons. According to Conlon, high school students tend to gravitate to the gym and basketball courts. Mondays and Wednesdays are for middle school students at the teen center, while Tuesdays and Thursdays for the high schoolers. On Friday and Saturday the center is open to students from seventh to 12th grade.
Among the activities Conlon is hoping to initiate is a regular cooking program, which will be open to all teens. That program will take place on Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m., and rotate with other activities in that time slot that might include ping-pong, basketball and crafts.
Planning is in full swing for the summer, which will once again include Skatefest. Conlon will work with Kettlebottom Outfitters on the program, which has in the past included a freestyle skate competition, a dance-off and a rap battle. There are also field trips to Block Island and Six Flags in the works. Conlon says the Six Flags trip is always a big hit with the students.
Conlon spoke about her predecessor, who will continue to work part time at the teen center. “Debbie was awesome,” Conlon said. “She was really good at planning, interacting with the kids and doing outreach. I hope to do be able to do as good a job as she did. It’s nice that she’s only in Newport and that the kids know that she’s in Newport.”
Although the teen center program was not yet established when Conlon was a youngster, she was a regular visitor to the rec center and says there is no doubt that she would have been happy to come to the teen center had the program been in place at that time. “I always say that I wish that I had been able to come here,” she said. “When it’s cold out you get to come here and hang out with your friends, I think it would have been fun and entertaining.”
Bill Piva, the rec department’s director, said he is excited that Conlon is on board because there is going to be continuity with the programs that the center already has in place.
“She’s going to be able to build on those with her own ideas,” said Piva. “As a new coordinator we’re going to unleash her to present her own ideas. Anytime anybody takes over a program they’re going to have ideas different than the person who just left. It’s going to be exciting to see what kind of plans Molly has in place.”
Piva added that the kids are excited to have Conlon on board, which is in no small part due to Conlon being from Jamestown. He notes that no one will be able to say that Conlon doesn’t understand how they’re feeling because she herself has been in the same situation while living in Jamestown as a child.
“She grew up here,” Piva said. “She knows what it’s like to hang out at the rec center and do fun things. The teen center wasn’t in place when Molly was a young person, but the rec center was always here. The teen center has just improved what we already had in place with the rec department. I think Molly will take that and go a little further with it.”
The next event at the teen center will be a dance for sixth-, seventhand eighth-graders on Saturday, March 31, from 7 to 10 p.m.