Originally Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013
on http://www.keepmecurrent.com

By Andrew Rice arice@keepmecurrent.com

Tori Stenbak, the new program coordinator at Westbrook’s My Place Teen Center, has recently transitioned her field of work from private law practice to public service, and she couldn’t seem happier.

The 36-year-old native of Etna graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire and the University of Maine School of Law in 2005, after which she worked as a private practice family law attorney for eight years.

However, in December 2012, Stenbak, who lives in Westbrook with her husband and three children, began the process of closing her law practice and starting a master’s program in public policy and management at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.

“I find my work at MPTC very rewarding and am very pleased with my move from private law practice to public service,” she said Wednesday.

The American Journal caught up with Stenbak this week to hear more about her new role at the teen center:

Q: You’re the first program coordinator for My Place Teen Center. What does your role entail?

A: I am not actually the first program coordinator. Previously our director of operations also did program coordination. Now the two positions have been separated. I am responsible for developing a monthly calendar of activities and programs that are run by staff, volunteers, and community members and local businesses. Additionally, I am the direct supervisor of our youth workers and volunteers and work directly with the youth when they are at the center. Moreover, my goals include outreach and partnership with the communities and school system to better meet the needs of the youth who attend the center.

Q: Are there new programs you have implemented or are currently looking at trying?

A: A few new programs have started since I have started at My Place. Some were in the works prior to my hiring, such as our partnership with Acorn Studios to offer an improv acting class. We have also started a youth yoga program and a weekly life-skills class. We also offer a weekly hip-hop class, taught by a Drouin Dance instructor, and have had a few different cooking classes. Our community partnerships are invaluable to what we can offer. All of our programming is 100 percent free to youth who participate in programming here. I would love to offer more art and music programming. We are about to start small-group guitar lessons. I would love to hear from people who may be willing to volunteer for fine arts, sculpting, recycled art, piano lessons, comic book art, or other similar types of classes.

Q: What are some of the more popular activities at the center?

A: The improv class, hip hop dance, cooking classes, and arts and crafts are some of the most popular programs we have. The kids also love the opportunity to use our computer lab, play pool or ping-pong with their friends. My Place is really a very fun place to hang out.

Q: Do you receive feedback from kids on what they’d like to see at My Place?

A: I reach out to the kids for feedback all the time. Last week, a teen came to me and asked if we could start a fashion club. He wanted to take clothes that were not being used and redesign and re-purpose them. I asked him to see if he could get a few other kids to commit. Within 20 minutes he had a list and we started the class this week! It was really fun to teach the kids how to use a sewing machine.

Q: How do you think the upcoming renovations to the building will affect programming?

A: We are looking forward to the renovations. Things might be a little crazy while construction is happening, but the changes to the space will be phenomenal.

Q: How do you incorporate the My Place mission into everyday activities?

A: With every program I put on the calendar, I think about how that activity will further our vision for these kids. My hope is that our kids are building self-confidence, discipline, and problem-solving skills with each activity they engage in here and that they are doing so without thinking about it. The goal is to find things that are both fun and engaging.