‘The vibes are on point’: New leadership for St. Peter's youth group
Isabel Consoli and Maria Moniz met and became best friends at their church’s youth group when they were children. Now they’ve come full circle, running the St. Peter's Episcopal Church youth group for their children.
The women took over for Wendy Reardon, who started the program in September 2022.
Consoli and Moniz believe that youth groups should be a safe space for children, not another classroom for them to sit in.
“We want to break this classroom mentality,” said Reverend Scott Ciosek. “Kids don’t want to be in school … the last place kids want to be on a Sunday morning is in a CCD class.”
The two women have found that the older kids enjoyed the bi-weekly meetings so much that they wanted to meet weekly.
“I feel like the vibes are on point most of the time,” said Lucas Consoli, 17, who is Isabel Consoli’s son. “You know you don’t really have to worry about getting judged by anybody.”
The group of about 12 kids aged 12 to 17 meet in a renovated garage behind the church. There the kids had access to video games, computers and space to lounge.
All of the furniture and technology in the room was donated by members of the church, explained Ciosek.
“Here they are now, coming full circle, giving back what they received as young people,” Ciosek said about Consoli and Moniz. “Being mentors for other kids.”
The lesson of giving back to people and community is a big part of what the women teach in the youth group.
“We are just trying to get these youth out there into the real world to realize and appreciate and to give back,” said Consoli. “We want to teach them that there is more to give [and that] to give is so much more rewarding than to receive.”
The meetings start with prayer and faith-related lessons, then a corresponding activity and then ending with free time.
The younger group, known as Faith Foundations is for kids from pre-k to fifth grade. They have dance breaks and crafts to keep the kids engaged and entertained on top of the faith-based lessons.
The group sponsors field trips for the kids as well. They have gone bowling as a group and sometimes get ice cream during their lessons.
The women stressed that kids of all backgrounds and communities are welcome to join and share their ideas and experiences, including kids who identify as LGBTQIA+. Ciosek added that all volunteers and employees go through “safe church training” to help ensure a safe environment for all people in the church.