(Changing How I Negotiate Stuff)

CHINS & Urban Teens Groups

Bringing Teens, Family and Community Together!

The CHINS group is being offered in many communities to help deter teens from violence, drugs, and negative peer pressures (i.e., gangs). The goals are to empower youth to understand how they exhaust their power in many ways that makes them powerless. Family members are included to learn how to find means to support and not sabotage relationships with their teens, community resources (i.e., schools, colleges, churches, after school, and other areas of teen interest) are included to help with mentoring, tutoring, redirecting negative behaviors utilizing the teens cognitive and creative gifts. The CHINS team works diligently to outreach to community resources that will help teens find a means of feeling connected and hopeful. These groups end with “ID” (identification) an hour of creative writing about feeling powerful which will be transposed into a song, poem, book of songs/poems. These writings are placed in CD format and used on various social media. These groups will run 15 weeks for 2 hrs. a week; and several groups can be run at the same time with no more than 8 participants in each group. Those participants who succeed are used as peer mentors for the new groups. CCS is looking for financial supports to pay these teens a stipend for their involvement. A “Teen Talk” TV program is currently being developed out side of this program.

Purple Ribbon Project

Teen from the C.H.I.N.S. group who are giving back to those less fortunate. Teens prepare donations in the form of gifts for those who are homeless and for those families living in shelters.

New Bedford Standard Times Article April 5, 2006
Keith Junior High students learning to negotiate life

By BRIAN FRAGA, Standard-Times correspondent

NEW BEDFORD – Aaron Gomes, 13, of New Bedford was a troubled teenager at Keith Middle School two months ago, surrounded by negative influences that affected the way he perceived himself and related to others.

Recently, Aaron was accompanied by a dozen other Keith students penning their thoughts to paper as they wrote song lyrics for a CD they will produce in a few months.

For Aaron, who sat near a corner of a room at Temple of the Restoration Church, the exercise was a rare opportunity to tap into his creative talents.

“This is really the only part of my life I’ve been given a chance to express my creative side,” Aaron said. “People are getting to know what I can do. I’m getting to meet a lot of new people, too.”

That duality of rethinking himself and changing how he deals with others is at the heart of a new program being piloted this year with 11 students at Keith.

The program is known by the acronym CHINS, which stands for Changing How I Negotiate Stuff, and it is managed by Cultural Counseling Services a New Bedford-based clinical agency dedicated to assisting troubled youths.

Dr. Celina Pina, clinical administrator for Cultural Counseling Services, said the program is designed to build youths’ “ego strength” to help them assess their values and goals.

“Kids think it’s powerful to be in negative situations, and negative relationships especially when they’re gangs involved,” Dr. Pina said.

“When they are part of a gang, they’re taught that they are part of a team , but they’re powerless. They end up in jail or drop out of school and the worse case  scenario they end up dead,” she said.

Students in the program were identified by school officials for being at risk for behavioral problems. They meet with Dr. Pina one day per week in a clinical setting at the school, then outside the school for at least two days during the week for team-building activities.

Some community organizations have volunteered to assist with the program, such as Inner-City Youth with its teen mentoring services, and NorthStar Learning Center, which is helping the students develop a Web site.

Julie Lopes, founder of Inner-City Youth, said its role is to help target what academic skills the students need help developing, and identify their creative talents.

“We want them to have fun,” Ms. Lopes said. “A lot of times, kids hang out on the (street) corner because they have nothing to do.

“A lot of these kids just want nurturing and understanding, or love, even,” she said. “No one is promoting that at home for them.”

The sense of encouragement and positive reinforcement was on display during a creative writing and STEP exercise at Temple of the Restoration Church recently.

Stephanie Spry, 21, a local dancer and musical artist, assisted a group of Keith students that included Aaron Gomes, Ashley Martinez, 14, Danny Alves, 15, and Aaron Brito, 14, with their songwriting.

“They’re a very talented group,” Ms. Spry said. “We’re taking about things that they experience in their life and molding it into something positive. That’s what this is all about.”