by Sue Ann Rybak
Arianna Neromiliotis, 31, of East Mt. Airy, took over the reins from Marianne Dwyer, the former director of Teenagers, Inc. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the center’s Kick-off event.
Neromiliotis, one of the original founding teens of the organization, still remembers sitting on Dwyer’s porch in 1996, discussing how she and her friends could make a difference in the Chestnut Hill community. At the time there was no formal organization for teenagers under one organization.
“We used to meet in the Chestnut Hill Community Association,” Neromiliotis said. “In the beginning, we were just trying to integrate ourselves into the Chestnut Hill way of life.”
Teenagers Inc. didn’t even have a formal meeting place until 2000, when local businessman Richard Snowden donated the current center located at 105 Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill.
“It took sometime to break the ice,” she said. “Teenagers Inc. is kind of household name now. People know who we are, and that’s made such a big difference.”
Neromiliotis said she has come full-circle. She was just 15 years old when Teenagers Inc. began.
“Teenagers Inc. gave me my first glimpse into what service is like – not talking about it – not dreaming about it – but doing it,” Neromiliotis said. “It shaped my life’s path. After high school, I did two years of City Year. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
City Year is a nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to fight the national dropout crisis. Youths between the age of 17 – 24 commit to 10 months of service in exchange for an education grant of about $5,500.
Neromiliotis’ experience at City Year eventually led her to become a sign language interpreter at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf . She said her work there was instrumental in preparing her for the role of director.
“PSD allowed me to grow,” she said. “I am sort of this bicultural person who has been part of a really unique community. The opportunity to share that with the general community is something you don’t get everyday.”
“The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf is super supportive of this move,” Neromiliotis said. “We are trying to find ways to connect with deaf kids here. So, I am really excited for this year and the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Neromiliotis said while it was a difficult decision to leave PSD, “at the end of the day I knew that making a difference in my community is where my heart has always been.”
She said Dwyer has laid an excellent foundation and it will be difficult to fill her shoes.
“I have large shoes to fill,” Neromiliotis said, “but, I am excited to fill them.”
Besides the annual service project to Guatemala, the organization plans to partner with various community organizations including a women’s shelter in Mt. Airy to do service projects. Other Teenagers Inc. activities include ski trips, haunted house trips and day trips to New York.
Teenagers Inc. will host its annual Ghost Walk on Oct. 26 in collaboration with the Chestnut Hill Community Association and the Chestnut Hill Library.
While the Ghost Walk invites residents to journey back to the past to share tales of horror, Neromiliotis is not worried about Chestnut Hill’s future.
“These kids are amazing,” Neromiliotis said. “I am definitely not worried about our [country’s] future.”
She said organizations like Teenagers Inc. change youth’s dreams into tomorrow’s future.
“These kids have shown they are ready to take on today’s challenges – by putting their ideas into action.”