Teens (14-17)

Image of a stage with approximately 15 teenagers practicing for TWOB.

The SUUSI Teen program is an exciting intentional community for people ages 14-17. Teen Leaders and adult staff members work together to create a fun, safe, and healthy place in which teens explore and grow. There are a combination of guided and spontaneous activities with large and small groups. We develop and practice UU principles, explore ideas, and share in growing and maintaining a vibrant community. In the SUUSI Teen Program, friendships are made that often last a lifetime! The life of the Teen program centers on the dorm where teens live (and play) for the week of SUUSI.

Please see this important information for all parents & Guardians of Teens on expectations at SUUSI. 

Teen Leaders & Touch Groupsimage of five teens, two boys and three girls, clustered together

The heart of the Teen program is the opportunity for teens to lead and be led by peers in a mindful and deliberate way. At the end of each SUUSI, the teens elect leaders for the next SUUSI. This group of dynamic teens comes to SUUSI early for leadership training with adult staff and has responsibilities in the dorm throughout the week.

Teen Leaders each facilitate a small group of other teens in the program, called a “touch group.” Through the touch groups, Teen Leaders help new members become comfortable in the dorm, address social issues as they come up, share in daily experiences and offer support, as necessary. Touch groups provide a more self-guided experience appropriate to the changing needs of teenagers on their way to adulthood. Adult staff members give feedback and guidance throughout this process.

Life in the Teen Dorm

The Teen Dorm is the center of all teen life even Image of a teenager at a podium, at worshipas Teens participate in the wider SUUSI community. This is where we share worship, space, laughter, tears, hugs, ideas, music, and games. The Teen Dorm is a busy place with some sort of activity going on at all hours of the day and night. The degree to which a teen participates is up to the teen and their parent(s)/guardian(s).

Each day, teens can decide how to spend their time, but they are required to attend their afternoon touch group meetings, the evening Teen Dorm activity, and 1 am check-in.

They are also strongly encouraged to attend a workshop or activity during the day. Throughout the week, we offer workshops exclusively for teens.

Teens can register in advance for workshops or nature trips in the greater SUUSI community, or they can wait to see what workshops will be offered at the Teen Dorm during the week. A few afternoon workshop highlights for this year are volunteering at the Cullowhee Community Garden, aquatic activities at the WCU pool, Teen tubing, yoga, a thrift store run, and the ever popular henna!

In the evening we have a required activity that either takes place in the dorm and is just for teens or is a shared experience with the wider SUUSI community. This year we are continuing the wonderful worship tradition started last year by leading a SUUSI-wide evening worship in addition to participating in the Bridging Ceremony for our 17 year-olds during the Thursday evening SUUSI worship.

Nights are the time when the Teen Dorm truly comes alive! Teens can hang out in the dorm, play games, make and listen to music, or attend CACHE, the nightly teen-friendly dance party. For teens who want to perform, they are encouraged to participate in Teen coffeehouse as well as Cabaret.

After curfew, staff lead walking trips or take groups out to play wink, and there are always plenty of people awake for an all-night gaming marathon or a late night culinary adventure in our kitchen. There will be interesting, challenging and fun things to do 24 hours a day!

Look for a draft Teen Program Schedule in your arrival packet. Teens are welcome to suggest workshops and activities prior to SUUSI by sending a message to teens@suusi.org.

Teens are not required to live in the dorm, but teens not living in the dorm must be with their parent(s)/guardian(s) during curfew hours (1 am – 6 am). If a teen decides to stay with his or her parent(s)/guardian(s) during curfew hours, or if they will miss a required meeting for any reason (nature trip, workshop, etc.), staff needs to be notified in advance.

For everyone’s safety, the only entrance and exit to the Teen Dorm is through the front door. Parents/ guardians are encouraged to stop by at any time (and leave something in their teen’s mailbag), but only those with SUUSI name tags will be allowed in and will be escorted by a staffer at all times.

Teen Dorm Guide for Parents

The Teen Dorm program provides an experience that is distinct from either home or a summer camp. For the week, teens have a wide degree of autonomy, with peer and adult social supports in place. Teens dictate their schedules according to their interests and family expectations 

As a middle ground between home life and future autonomy, the teen program has a few very strict rules. The core regulations teens must respect are the 1-6am curfew throughout the week; no alcohol, tobacco or nicotine products, illegal drugs or misuse of legal drugs; and no violence. Teens who break these rules are required to leave SUUSI for the year.

The Teen Program is committed to supporting teens who may struggle to remain substance-free at SUUSI, and teens and their parents/guardians are encouraged to contact the Teen Directors (teens@suusi.org) before SUUSI to plan for adequate support.

Sexual contact is also not acceptable within the teen community. Beyond this, teens are free to socialize at length, sleep when and where they want and show affection in respectful, non-coercive ways. We ask that parents/guardians have constructive conversations with their teens about expectations and hopes for how they will relate to other teens in this environment. Parents need to talk with their teen before SUUSI about situations such as friends and guests in the dorm room; where, when and with whom it is appropriate to sleep; how to get along with roommates; and how to assert themselves positively in social situations. These answers will vary.

These conversations will also take place in the Teen Dorm. Parents who are concerned that their teen is not ready for such a wide degree of self-guided latitude may elect to house their teens with them during SUUSI. Those teens will be welcome and included in all other teen program activities outside of curfew hours.

The Teen program offers a unique midpoint in the evolution of teenagers into adults. Adult staffers are available to organize activities as well as provide mediation for issues. We seek to create a community that encourages communication and models respect, while offering freedom to its members in preparation for the independence that is not far off in their lives.