Local nonprofit partners with StreetWise to reach Gwinnett teens

It’s important, life-giving work. 

Karen, executive director of Revolution Teen Center, has had a passion for helping teens for a long time, serving in 12Stone’s student ministry for over 10 years. And the idea for Revolution Teen Center developed at a youth leader retreat. 

“At this training, so many different youth pastors talked about how it’s really important to build relationships with students. They’re not gonna trust you if they don’t have a relationship with you,” Karen said. “It was hard in middle school and high school for me, but now it’s so different, with social media and constant information coming at them.

“I thought about it, and at church youth group, we might get 30 minutes with them once a week – but  that’s not enough. That’s how Revolution Teen Center was born. 

“It wasn’t founded as faith-based, because we wanted all students to be included: no matter their faith, nationality, socioeconomic status, etc. Plus, all of our programs are free. 

“The goal of the center was to bring kids together with leaders in a low-stress, fun environment to help them improve their lives. 

“We first opened our doors in 2018 offering after-school programs and events for teens,” she said. “Before COVID, we did Friday night events where we just do something fun, like bowling or skating or a silent disco – all kinds of different activities in a safe environment. We also did several service projects and hosted an open conversation program called ‘Let’s Talk’ with our girls.

“We had a building, but we moved out in August of 2019. If we’d stayed, because of COVID, we would’ve been paying rent for all of 2020 and 2021 without being able to use the building, so God really took care of us.” 

From her time serving at her home church 12Stone, Karen was familiar with StreetWise, but it wasn’t until someone else introduced Revolution Teen Center to StreetWise that the two nonprofits began forming a relationship. 

This fall, StreetWise hosted its first event specifically for teenagers – a clothing event. And the board at Revolution Teen Center jumped at the chance to get involved.

“Someone told Tracy Joseph about us, and for the last year, we’ve been brainstorming on what we could do together to serve and invest in local teens, because that’s really our heart at Revolution Teen Center,” Karen said.

“Our board was super excited about the clothing event and agreed to give $1,500 to provide brand-new clothes; we also got nearly that much over again from our donors, when we shared what StreetWise was doing.

“Several of us came to prepare for the event, and two of my board members as well as one of our former students who’s now in college came and helped at the clothing event. It just gave us so much joy to do it!”

The Revolution Teen Center student-turned-volunteer, Cailee, even had the chance to help one teen in a special way. 

“Cailee and her mom Tracey [a Revolution Teen Center board member] ended up talking to a young girl and her mom. The girl couldn’t find any clothes that worked for her, and because of the connection made with Cailee and her mom, they’re working to find clothes specifically for her,” she said. 

Through 12Stone, Karen played a big part in contributing even more. 

“I’m close with the pastor who’s over all of the 12Stone Church student ministry, and when I told him about the event, he loved it and thought it would be a great way for the students to serve,” she said. “So 12Stone’s middle and high school students, across all campuses, brought their gently used clothes to donate. They collected 800 pounds of clothing!”

There are big plans for the future of Revolution Teen Center and StreetWise’s efforts together to serve Gwinnett teenagers. 

“We wanted to have Revolution Teen Center programs that would teach teens life skills that they’re not learning in school anymore – like how to change your oil, windshield wipers and flat tires; cooking classes, and more. But we never got to those because of COVID,” she said. “So I’m really excited that StreetWise is going to have teen programs.

“There are local kids who don’t always have the opportunities other kids do, but if we can help them and guide them and show them that there are ways you can go to college or trade school or get a job… I just think it’s so cool that they’re doing this, and we are totally behind it.

“They have such a heart for people in need, and they don’t want to just give handouts; they want to really help them make it in this world. StreetWise is so organized, and their volunteers, staff and everyone there is just wonderful. I just can’t say enough good things about them!”