Azusa teens find new solace

Shirts

Kids at MYTHIRDPLACE make shirts to wear during the program.
Photo by Jessie Gomez

Movie theaters, restaurants, parks, Facebook, home: all these places may constitute a “third place” or an escape from everyday life. However, a new after-school program provides a safe haven for kids of the Azusa community.

Launched last week, MYTHIRDPLACE functions as a faith-based organization created by Azusa resident and APU alum Adrian Greer, who used to direct Homework House, an after-school tutoring program where many APU students volunteer. According to Greer, the idea of this “third place” was designed to help teens navigate tough trials of life through self-empowerment, mentor support, activities and conversation.

“I don’t think there is any one center in Azusa that is all-inclusive and lets teens come and exist,” said Greer. “I see myself in a unique position to offer youth what I never had.”

Functioning inside Foothill Community Church, MYTHIRDPLACE attracts youngsters from all over the city.

“My desire is to offer all youth of Azusa opportunities to come explore who they are and become active and engaged citizens,” said Greer.

Alongside Greer, a handful of community members volunteer their time and efforts to make this program available for all youth in Azusa.

“I really like the volunteers and all the stuff we do in this program,” said 14-year-old Ivette Ayala. “I come to get help in my homework and have fun.”

Aside from homework and mentoring, the organization partners with local programs such as Variety For One, the ministry hip-hop dance team on campus, in order to teach free dance classes to kids.

“My favorite day is Friday because I get to dance with the dance team and talk to them,” 13-year-old Brianna Corcuera said.

Junior biology major and VFO outreach leader Briana Ahmed has enjoyed working with the organization so far.

“We are so excited to give back to the community and bless them through what we love to do,” Ahmed said. “This may be the only outlet [where] kids get to be free, so we want to encourage them and share God’s love.”

Currently, VFO is working on a flash-mob dance with the kids that they will perform in Citrus Crossing later this year.

“Not many kids want to dance. Some hesitate and aren’t confident,” said junior liberal studies major and VFO captain Ashley Whitelaw. “But despite their lack of confidence, they still come and dance; that is inspiring.”

In the future, Greer hopes the program will shift into a big-brother/big-sister environment.

“I want kids to walk in the joy of Christ and have a fullness of who they are,” said Greer.

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