Wednesday, December 21, 2022

News from The Barn

One of the idiosyncratic wonders of the Oakland Mills universe is the fact that we have barns. Two barns, right smack in the middle of the Village Center. Even better, they have names.

The Barn, and The Other Barn.

This is kind of hilarious when you think about how much energy was spent in naming streets in Columbia. In a place where you can find Broken Lute, Rustling Leaf, and Liquid Laughter, how did these two barns escape similarly literary/artistic renaming? 

Of course, the barns predate the New American City, having been a part of the Owings Dorsey Dairy Farm. At least, The Other Barn does. I’m having trouble finding info specific to the ‘The Barn’ itself.

The Other Barn houses the Oakland Mills Community Association offices and is the location where community meetings are held. It’s also an event venue. I’ve attended board meetings there, birthday parties, concerts, festivals, art shows, dances, and children’s performances. I’ve even interviewed Girl Scouts in the lobby.  In Oakland Mills, it’s our home base.

But what about The Barn? Many residents haven’t been inside the building which is right next door. That’s a shame, because it’s a very cool facility. The Barn houses the Columbia Association Youth and Teen Center.  It’s an amazing community resource for young people in Columbia. But a lot of people have never heard about it. 

The Youth and Teen Center at The Barn is a multi-purpose, two-story facility where teens can access a computer lab, watch movies, play Wii or XBOX on a large flat screen TV, or enjoy billiard tables, air hockey, ping pong and various board games in the recreation room. Our upstairs area features a mini-gym for basketball, volleyball and other games and activities, as well as a snack bar run by the entrepreneurial program.

Yesterday I got some exciting news about the Youth and Teen Center.

CA, Columbia Community Care add new programs at Youth & Teen Center

You may already know that Columbia Community Care runs one of their cold-weather food distribution programs out of The Barn. Now CCC Director Erika Strauss Chavarria is collaborating with the Youth and Teen Center’s Manager Rene Buckmon to offer programming created just for young people in our community.

One of the programs CCC plans to bring to CA’s space is the P.U.S.H. program, which stands for Perseverance Until Success Happens. P.U.S.H. is a pilot violence prevention program designed to follow the lead of the young people it serves by providing a space where young people can gather, have access to resources that meet them where they are and guide the pathways to overall well-being. P.U.S.H. is currently being run out of the Bain Center in Harpers Choice, but P.U.S.H creator and Wilde Lake High School alum Saquan Maxwell sees the potential the new location at the Youth & Teen Center offers.

This new partnership gives both the Columbia Association and Columbia Community Care an opportunity to focus on the kind of Restorative Justice practices that have been successful in bring positive change to schools throughout the country. Giving young people a voice and valuing their concerns is central in establishing working relationships where teens feel safe to learn and grow. Strauss Chavarria, who spent years teaching young people in the Howard County School System, brings that real-world experience to her work. 

Ms. Buckmon, who has a degree in Recreation from the University of Maryland, has been the Director of the Youth and Teen Center since 1992.  (Even before that, she was their Supervisor of Programming.) Buckmon brings years of experience in the Youth and Teen Center Community, including her knowledge of what kinds of programming appeals to young people, and how to create successful partnerships with groups like 4-H, NAMI,  The Howard County Library System, and others. In the press release provided by the Columbia Association, Ms. Buckmon speaks to the value of such partnerships.

“Partnerships are an integral part of how we show up for our community,” Youth & Teen Center Manager Rene Buckmon said. “Some students and families aren’t even aware that we exist, but for the kids who do come, we are making a real difference. I know the addition of CCC programming will expand our ability to meet Columbia’s youth where they are and help them in meaningful ways.”

They’ll be teaming up with Wilde Lake High School grad Saquan Maxwell as they pilot his program called P.U.S.H. - - Perseverance Until Sucess Happens. If that title sounds rather serious and even rigorous to you, watch this brief video for an opportunity to see Maxwell’s enthusiasm and joy as he talk about the project.

Video courtesy of the Columbia Association 

I wrote back in October about how the concept of ‘community care’ involves more than food pantries. 

The Restaurant Week That Gives Back, Village Green/Town², October 24, 2022

Community care differs from most charitable giving in that it’s based on the understanding that we are all a part of the process of caring for our community. It’s not: one person gives, the other receives. It’s about human interaction.

This is not Columbia Association playing Lady Bountiful and bestowing experiences and opportunities like so many bags of groceries. This is an active collaboration which will require CA to extend some trust and goodwill to another organization - - one that is fully committed to centering not the adults “in charge” but the young people themselves.

There’s some risk for CA in this. I think it’s the best kind of risk. I hope to see this venture succeed and bear fruit. 

The P.U.S.H. program is scheduled to start at the Youth & Teen Center in early January. All Howard County teens and preteens are welcome to attend.

For more information on the programs CCC is offering at CA’s Youth & Teen Center, visit CCC’s website. For a full calendar of offerings at the Youth & Teen Center, visit CA’s website


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