Since opening its doors in 2004, Wilton’s Trackside Teen Center has promoted healthy, age-appropriate development for teens and pre-teens by offering them a place where they can build social relationships and have fun in a safe, alcohol- and drug-free environment. As a brand-new school year started Monday, Aug. 29, Trackside also has a new executive director, as well as a fresh look to welcome back its members.
Wilton resident Lori Fields was on Trackside’s Board of Directors for three years before she accepted the role of executive director last May. She sees her 25-plus years of experience working as a clinical social worker studying human behavior and psychology as a true asset in her new position. Where in her clinical practice and work as a life coach she helped people change their perspective on life; so too does she see Trackside playing a similar role in helping Wilton’s teens and preteens define who they are at a key period in their lives.
“Every middle school student is in crisis — that’s what adolescence is about. So, if we can be a place where even one kid feels better about themselves, feels less anxious, and more like they fit in somewhere, then we have succeeded,” Fields said.
According to Fields, most human beings have a story of being told that they are “not good enough” during adolescence, which can influence even the smallest of decisions they make as their life goes on. She hopes that Trackside can make a difference in the lives of its young members by rewriting that narrative before they get stuck with that story.
“We have an opportunity to create a culture here that when students, or anyone really, walks in this door, they feel like they belong,” she says. She’s proud to promote Trackside’s new motto: “You Belong Here.”
Trackside offers a variety of programming from Ultimate Frisbee to Improv to Jewelry Making to a Robotics Club. Programs are created and run by Wilton High School students and overseen by Fields and John Priest (in Trackside parlance, the organization’s Programming Rockstar) who is also a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Middlebrook Middle School and therefore very well-known — and beloved — by Wilton teens.
By letting them run their own program, Trackside fosters an entrepreneurial environment to teach the high school kids the skills to run their own businesses. “The magic of Trackside is seeing the dynamic between the high school and middle school students, and how they both benefit from working together. It really is a win-win for everybody,” Fields noted.
One new addition Fields has added to Trackside’s offerings is a pilot restaurant apprentice program. Trackside’s building at 15 Station Rd. now has a full working kitchen and café where Fields said they are teaching kids how to run a restaurant.
Another new program is simply called “Freestyle Day,” where kids can come in and hang out, play pool, work on homework or just socialize. “We’re taking it up a notch in terms of the different types of programs we’re offering We want to bring in some tradespeople to teach kids some trades like electrical and car repair. Skills that they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” she added.
Fields is also very excited about the workshop/artist loft that she and Priest built over the summer. It’s a kids’ wonderland with a handmade workbench and tons of art and craft supplies. “We really wanted to create a space that fosters creativity, imagination, exploration — building things,” Fields described.
The loft isn’t the only part of the physical space that’s changed since Fields came on board. The entire facility has gotten a facelift to go along with Trackside’s new director and innovative programming changes.
“We painted everything and brought in all new furniture,” said Fields. The effect is a comfortable, welcoming environment where kids can just be kids.
“We’re looking to give the kids a space where they can be free from all the outside pressures and influences of school and life,” she added, also noting that she was grateful for the community help from three businesses to make the facelift happen — Wilton resident, Mike Handel, who owns 360 Painting, who brought in Jon Minogue from Benjamin Moore, who works directly with the local Ring’s End. Benjamin Moore donated all the paint for the project.
With all of the changes, Fields said she’s excited to steer Trackside as an organization as it undergoes another level of transformation. “I’m thrilled to be in this position. I really want to make a difference and leave my imprint on something meaningful here.”
Trackside is located at 15 Station Road. For more information visit the Trackside website or call 203.834.2888.