The Teen Line training room. (Photo by Ryan Kim)


Column: My experience as a volunteer with Teen Line, a peer-to-peer support helpline

About Teenline and my personal experience with it
<a href="" target="_self">Ryan Kim</a>

Ryan Kim

May 15, 2023

After my program with Annenberg Youth Academy last summer, I was looking across the web when I stumbled on this application in my email. It said, “Get involved! Teen Line opportunity!” After researching Teen Line further, I found what Teen Line is about.

Teen Line is a national nonprofit teen-to-teen helpline that helps teens across the nation. Volunteers had to be a freshman or a sophomore at the time of application, and I decided to apply. After submitting my application and having an interview, I received my acceptance letter on September 12, 2022.

My training with Teen Line began on September 27 and was on every Tuesday and Thursday. Our training director was a counselor named Jenny Pascal, who worked there for 13 years throughout her time as director. She created a safe space for the training group and me to work together. Our training group had around 20 students from Los Angeles.

On the first day, I remember it was exciting seeing so many people like me, all interested in saving lives. Despite some nervousness, I was secretly delighted to meet other students from different schools and areas. I remember introducing ourselves around a massive table, and we started from there.

During my time there, I went to the Teen Line training room countless times to learn and train about how to save lives. They taught us various topics about relationships, suicide, and self-harm. To ensure we would be ready for most situations, they had us practice with each other by separating us into groups and doing exercises together. It was a great experience since we practiced a lot as a group and worked as a team at the time.

The training group also brought in guest speakers who told their own experiences or taught us about several topics like sexual health. It was always an incredible experience to meet people and hear what they had to say about their lives.

As we started to get closer to the end of the training, Teen Line wanted us to have our first experience in the hotline room. Pascal told us we would start with being an Observer and then a Listener. Observers meant we would answer emails to get the hang of things and then move on to texts. Listeners were the ones who received and listened to teens on the phone.

However, we had to roleplay to become a texter or listener. Roleplays are when a supervisor pretends to call in as a teen needing help, and we would help them feel better or their situation.

The first time I went to the hotline room, I felt nervous, but since I started with emails, I felt more confident the longer I was there. The people there were helpful, and as I worked on my emails, I saw other volunteers answering calls and texting teens.

It was a quiet yet enthralling experience, and the shift lasted between 5:30 and 10 p.m. After having my first experience, I went back to training on Tuesday and shared my experience with some other of my peers.

Finally, on December 13, it was the final day of training. Though it was a sad day, Pascal let us know that we’d see each other during the shifts and did an activity that tied our training group together with a piece of string. Then we got a small cut of that string and tied it to our badge.

Now I’m an official volunteer there and go each week every month. Though it’s hard knowing that teenagers like me are going through difficult experiences like child abuse and suicide, I’m glad to know they’re reaching out for help and feeling better after contacting us.

Overall, Teen Line has helped me grow and become a better person. It made me more knowledgeable about mental health and various topics but also made me realize how important a group is together. I recommend Teen Line to anyone wanting to be a psychologist or just wanting to help anyone out. It’s an emotional ride and a great experience to join as a freshman or a sophomore in Los Angeles.

Teen Line will open their summer applications soon. Visit their website if you’re interested in getting involved.

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