Briana Echols remembers The CanTeen as an eclectic space where it was easy to fit in.
“I liked that it was a mixture of people – people that you really wouldn’t think would hang out together, but here they were playing pool or games together,” she says. “I felt like I was part of a community.
“It was my favorite my favorite place growing up,” she says. “It helped me be independent. It helped me make more friends.”
Briana found herself at The CanTeen two or three days a week during some very formative years. Well over a decade later, she’s still around as a mentor and Friends of the Canteen Board Member.
“I spent a majority of my childhood there,” she says. “I mainly just hung out at first and then I got into doing more volunteer work.”
It sparked her interest in working with kids that she’s turned into a career in the Syracuse City School District.
“I’ve always liked working with kids, but volunteering with teens my own age and doing activities in the community increased my need to work with kids even more,” Briana says. “I feel like a better person when I’m helping other people.”
The CanTeen celebrated 20 years in 2019, most of which Briana’s been around for. She considers founder Toni’Lyn Brauchle a key influence and now close friend.
“She helped me be more of an adult, she helped me make tough decisions,” Briana says. “No matter what I’m going through I can show up, even as an adult. I know that someone will be there to talk to.”
She’s more than happy to give back as an adult as well.
“I’d like to see more of the future generation helping out and volunteering. I hope these kids find a second home like I found a second home.”
I’ve gained many relationships from coming to the CanTeen. I have many adults in my life that I trust because of the CanTeen. I’ve made many friendships with kids younger and older. One relationship I’ve had for 4 years. The CanTeen is my second home.
The CanTeen means a place to hang out, meet new and nice people. Stretch your legs in activities that you didn’t even know you were interested in. A place that is like home. With wonderful adults who were more like family than anyone else. A place where you could belong when you don’t fit in anywhere else. Maybe you could even find your best friend there. I’m so happy they are still a place for teens in need and just a place to make their lives better. I wish you the best on many more years of amazing work and time.
I have built a lot of relationships over the 3 years that I have been here. Mrs. Toni has taught me how to open up. I was a quiet shy type of person when I first came here, and I have made a lot of friends. I’m not really the type of person to open up to people and I truly feel safe with talking to the adults here. The CanTeen is my second home, it’s the one place where I truly feel safe & at home.
Well I know for a fact that the CanTeen has save teen lives, I love this place.
The types of relationships I’ve made here are long lasting and built a foundation of bonding and things we have in common with each other.
Since coming to the CanTeen I have built healthy, positive and trustworthy relationships. I have also gained many peer’s respect that I normally wouldn’t have received outside of the classroom.
The things that I remember most from the CanTeen is the Christmas gift wrapping that the Optimist Club did with the CanTeen kids. It was a great experience and a wonderful way to get to know some of the kids – lots of fun for a great cause! Also, the dinner we had at the Center as a thank you for the Optimist support – another very special night with the kids.
I would just like to share how the CanTeen was to me in high school and the friends I have made. My parents and I still talk about how I used to be shy. One main reason that changed for me was the friendships, opportunities and the self-esteem I gained from joining/being a part of pride and the Teen Center. I really began feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and finally started having a voice, which I still have to this day, although it still sometimes gets me in trouble! I remember our trip to Louisville, the teen youth gathering with other groups in the area, and the camping trips we took. So, I guess what I’m saying is THANK YOU!!! I’m glad to hear you’re still going strong.
The CanTeen has affected my life. Here’s how:
My parents approve of the Canteen because my grades have been improving ever since. My average went from a D+ to a B+. My parents are so proud of me and I have the Can Teen to help me with that. If I wasn’t here at the CanTeen, I would be bored out of my mind! Thank you CanTeen!