Being able to share past experiences can make a big difference when working with young people — especially teens. Noah Riehl taps into his youth when dealing with the 9th through 12th graders at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County’s Goshen Clubhouse as the teen engagement supervisor.
“When I was a teen, I was one of those who hung out with the wrong crowd. I wish I had a program like this,” he said. “If I had been involved in programs like this, it would have gotten me on the right track earlier.”
He’s been working at the Club for nearly a year, after spending a couple years working with teens at Bashor Children’s Home.
Riehl says he understands what teens face today.
“I want to help them navigate the tough situations they may encounter,” he said.
Riehl said teens are more perceptive than they’re often given credit.
“I think they know when someone is making a story up, but if you can tell them a story they can relate to with some passion, they will get behind that.”
Helping teens navigate the challenges of life means offering them opportunities at Club they can’t experience in other places.
“I think it’s a different world than it used to be. Giving them experiences they may not have access to is crucial to building connections and keeping them here.”
Riehl’s passion for music is one way he connects with the teens. Along with Quenton Williams from the Elkhart Club, Riehl offered a summer media arts program. Teens had the opportunity to develop beats, practice vocals, shoot photos and video or design artwork for sets.
“The music equipment we have can be pricey, so letting them have access to that gives them a leg up as they develop those skills.”
Riehl also wants to provide focused activities centering on career building — job shadowing, internships and speakers.
“Teens are interested in their future. Helping them achieve what they want to do after high school helps get them pointed in the right direction,” he said.
He also wants to offer more “experience” adventures. This summer, a theme week took teens outside the Clubhouse to learn about sailing, canoeing, rock climbing and biking.
“I enjoy when the kids are excited. I love a group that wants to be here. I want to be there for them any way we can be to help them grow and achieve what they hope for. That’s what it’s all about.”