‘In Town’ Tuesdays is the latest in Trackside Teen Center’s expanded programming that supports its core mission of building community for and around teens through engaging programs and leadership opportunities.
Launched in September, ‘In Town’ Tuesdays takes the ‘shop/stay local’ movement to a whole new level by connecting Trackside teens to a wide range of local businesses, exposing them to the myriad opportunities available to them as they think about their own career paths and interests.
Each week the teens venture out from Trackside to a different local business to meet the owner, hear about what inspired them to start their business, and ask questions. The immersive experience also involves a hands-on opportunity for the teens to interact with the business or product.
Past ‘In Town’ experiences included seeing an edible cookie printer in action at Painted Cookie, creating ‘Trackside Tacos’ at Point Break Tacos, designing a blanket at Southern Yankee, touring Wilton Auto and Tire Center’s state of the art facility, visiting Wilton’s Chamber of Commerce to hear about how they support the town and Wilton businesses, learning about jewelry making at Jill Lynn and Co., and learning about money management and the role a bank plays in a local community at Fairfield County Bank. Upcoming visits include the Wilton Police Department and Fit Body Boot Camp.
Based on the high level of interest from both the teens and local businesses, winter and spring programs are in development with plans to make ‘In Town’ an ongoing signature offering.
‘In Town’ Tuesdays was inspired by Trackside’s Summer Travel programs which are designed to create enriching and empowering opportunities for teens to learn to navigate new places, people, and experiences.
Trackside Executive Director Lori Fields realized there could be real value to replicating the travel program’s experiences on a local level.
“While traveling with the teens this summer in Boston and Colonial Williamsburg, I saw the impact on these teens of a fully immersive experience — outside of a classroom. They lit up and were making connections and learning life skills, things that can only be learned when you go out into the world. I thought, wow, we have to take this experience local,” Fields said.
Trackside Teen Leader Thomas Fletcher is excited to be an older student leading the younger teens on the pilot program.
“There’s really nothing like it around. We’re establishing connections between our teens and all of these great local businesses, some of which they weren’t aware of before. Teens feel more connected to Wilton by having their own relationships and network in town, beyond their parents’ relationships and network,” he said.
Feedback from participating teens reinforces the positive impact of getting exposure to more businesses and business owners. One teen explained why they “really like” In Town Tuesdays: “I like how we can learn about businesses that we didn’t know existed and expand our horizons for what we may want to be in the future.”
Fields said that local businesses have been amazingly supportive, helping to design the experience and generously donating their time and knowledge to the teens. Many of the businesses have asked to become a staple of what will become a signature Trackside program.
“I love the whole concept of the club for the kids… getting to see how local businesses are run and first hand experience. Can’t wait to have y’all back,” Southern Yankee owner Jennifer Angerame said.