Valley teens ‘Zooming’ through the coronavirus pandemic

Apr 24, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 9:41 am
(Screenshot courtesy of Joronda Montaño)...
(Screenshot courtesy of Joronda Montaño)
(Screenshot courtesy of Joronda Montaño)

PHOENIX — Where are teens going during the pandemic? Thousands of them in the Valley — and in California and Georgia — are meeting each other via Zoom conferences through a local nonprofit.

The pandemic taught Aidan Kennedy, 15, a powerful lesson.

“You never know when the next pandemic could happen, or if you’ll never be able to see and talk to your friends again,” at least in person, he said.

Kennedy joined “Teen Talks” from Valley nonprofit notMYkid and its secured Zoom meetings for the “Life Skills” class with other teens and adult mentors.

“Life Skills teaches you how to deal with relationships, certain situations that are delicate, and things that you will go through as a high schooler,” he explained.

“And they put real-life situations at you.”

Sonoma Evans is a parent and track and field coach in the Los Angeles area. Her high school senior daughter gets no prom or graduation ceremony.

“I actually ordered a cap and gown,” she said. “We’ll do something, maybe out in the driveway, have people drive by” to offer their congratulations.

She uses “Teen Talks” for her children and student-athletes – who suddenly have more time on their hands – to power past the pandemic.

“And then I also found that it gives kids a chance to think about themselves, and then hear the other kids, and then know that what they’re feeling is normal,” Evans explained.

The chief programs officer of notMYkid, Joronda Montaño, would offer her curriculum and programs at high schools. When they closed, she quickly moved them online and into Zoom.

“We have had a 385% increase in the number of participants who had an online class with us,” she reported, adding that “Teen Talks” has now connected with 15,000 Valley teens.

Usually, adults are too busy working, and teens want to be independent of them.

However, during the pandemic, teens are cherishing “the opportunities to have their parents in front of them when they want to,” Montaño said. “That is a comment we’re hearing over and over and over.”

Kennedy says he and other teens started as strangers.

“Now, we’re coming in as this big, giant friend group,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’re like a big, giant family yet, but that’s the direction we’re heading in.”

To find out how to join “Teen Talks” from notMYkid, text the word QUESTION to 602-584-8474.

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Valley teens ‘Zooming’ through the coronavirus pandemic