DARIEN, Conn. -- Janice Marzano is one of Darien’s true unsung heroes. As program director of the Depot Darien Youth Center, she works hard to help young people in the community grow as individuals and reach their full potential.
The Depot is a drug and alcohol-free youth community center for the young people of Darien, both private and home-schooled students. It focuses its services, social and community-based, on Darien’s high school and middle school-aged population, according to Marzano.
"The Depot is run by and for students and offers a welcoming, relaxed, judgment-free, safe 'home away from home,' while providing opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, community outreach and peer-to-peer connections," she said. "It's a place where kids can connect, grow and give back in a safe inclusive environment."
She added that the Depot is the longest-running teen center of its kind in the United States and is the recipient of the 2016 Connecticut Youth Service Bureau award for programming.
“We serve a vital role in the community, not only for the teens, but for many organizations and agencies, such as the Darien Youth Commission, the YMCA and the Kiwanis Club that rely on our support,” she said. “The Depot advises and refers kids to various organizations so that they can volunteer, join and get involved. This allows kids the opportunity to learn, give back and develop leadership skills.”
The Depot offers all Darien youth unique leadership, community service and social opportunities in an alcohol-free environment, Marzano said. The Depot also serves as as the designated Youth Service Bureau, providing access to quality referral services for Darien youth, she said.
Marzano is in charge of the daily operations at the Depot and oversees all teen programming (social, community outreach); supervise staffs; books and arranges alternate use programs, including parties and rentals.
“I also serve as an advocate for the Depot on a variety of boards and councils, such as Parent Awareness, Human Services Planning Council, Communities 4 Action, Thriving Youth-Thriving Community, Region One Youth Service Bureau, as well as the Darien Domestic Violence Council," she said.
Additionally, Marzano oversees grant processes. As the town’s Youth Service Bureau, the Center applies each year for an Enhancement Grant State Department of Education (CSDE), she said.
This grant is used for the Center's Girls Night Out program, which is offered to Darien resident high school girls, according to Marzano. It offers them a forum to share concerns and covers topics such as nutrition, body image, eating disorders and sexually transmitted diseases, while reinforcing the importance of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Marzano said all the young people at the Depot perform community services.
"Whether the kids are required, by their parents, church or school, or electing to perform community service, we connect them with the appropriate organizations so that they can do so," she said. "Also, our Student Governing Board members are required to perform a certain number of community service hours as part of their commitment to the SGB and the Depot."
All the teens benefit from their time at the Depot in some way, said Marzano.
"Peer-to peer-interaction and adult support help our youth grow into resilient adults," she said. "They gain confidence and skills that they can take with them when they leave home."
She added that many participants learn leadership skills, developing event-planning and fundraising skills; comprehending all aspects of accountability and follow-through.Learn more about the Depot at its website.