Kids First of Enfield teaches conflict-resolution and communication skills

By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013
Kids First of Enfield President Tom Arnone with group members.
Kids First of Enfield President Tom Arnone alongside members of the group's conflict resolution basketball program. Photo by Colin Rajala.

The days when groups of kids from different neighborhoods or schools got together to play basketball or a game of tag may seem to be over, having fallen victim to bullying and intolerance, but one Enfield organization is bringing it back, striving to help children coexist and live harmoniously. Kids First of Enfield is a project-based non-profit organization that looks to be an outlet for conflict-resolution and communication skills for children, while also targeting specific community projects pertaining to the health, safety and welfare of Enfield’s children - all while easing the burden off the government.

“We wear many different hats at Kids First of Enfield to help out in the community in as many ways as we possibly can,” said Tom Arnone, president of Kids First of Enfield. “The kids in this town are great and they just need an outlet to relax and be themselves. When that happens, they work better together and seem to see that adults aren’t out to get them.”

Kids First of Enfield’s most successful program to date has been its "conflict resolution pick-up basketball games" that take place every Thursday afternoon after school at the Enfield Youth Center. The program typically brings in about 25 children to play games of basketball, rotating games about every eight minutes. There are no refs for the basketball games, just supervisors who watch on as kids call their own fouls, determine who last touched the ball before it went out of bounds and settle any disputes on the court through mediation rather than arguments and fights. A zero-tolerance policy is followed in the gym. The program also gives out awards and prizes for good leadership and sportsmanship to children who are able to take a loss in good humor or pass the ball to a younger player to get them involved.

“[When] they come here, they are all the same,” Arnone said. “They may not play together at school or in their neighborhoods, but when they are here, they put everything aside and break down the barriers. For a kid it’s not easy to go mix in and work things out, but they do that here through communication, building trust and gaining respect.”

The group is nearing the completion of their its project, which was started at the group’s inception four years ago - renovating, updating and re-opening the kitchen at the Angelo Lamagna Activity Center. More than 50 children visit the center daily, with many teens coming and going, with school lunch being the best meal many receive all day. The kitchen is set to be reopened by the summer so it can help feed some of the children as well as for other existing social programs. The group also hopes to restart a cooking class that the center once held to teach teens culinary and leadership skills so they can go out and cook for younger siblings at home or get a head start on a career.

The group’s next activity will be installing an outdoor basketball court on the Youth Center property.

For more information visit, www.kidsfirstenfield.com.


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