Connecting IRL (In Real Life)

About the Program | Frequently Asked Questions

Program Update Coming Soon!


Group of teens on smart phonesDo you feel like everyone around you is always on their phone?

Do you struggle to put your phone down?

Are you exhausted and just wish you could take a break from the constant pressure?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you should consider applying to our new, first-of-its-kind program for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors: Connecting IRL (In Real Life)


If selected to participate, you will learn about the link between screen time and well-being, connect and share experiences with other teens “in real life,” leave with ways to cope when you’re struggling, and earn service hours. 

Taught by Evan Papadakis, LCSW - a local, licensed mental health professional - the program will be held on five Saturdays at the Volunteer Center in Torrance.

Finalists will participate in a quick phone interview, and selected participants will be notified shortly thereafter. Both participants and a parent/guardian will need to sign a commitment letter stating that you will be on time and attend all five sessions to complete the program. 
 
The program fee is $10 a session ($50 total). The full program fee is due prior to the first session (cash, check or credit card accepted). Need-based scholarships are available for both the program fee and for rideshare transportation to and from the program. Those who wish to be considered for one of these scholarships should provide an explanation in the appropriate field(s) at the end of the application. This explanation is required for scholarship consideration.

If you have any questions, please contact us at sara@volcenter.org or (310) 212-5009.

Click here to learn more about the Volunteer Center’s new focus on helping families find balance and reconnect in today’s screen-focused world.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are you still going to hold the program amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
Who should apply for this program?
How would you describe this program and its outcomes to schools, organizations and parents?
What will the teen participants learn?
How much does the program cost and when/how do I have to pay it?
What if I cannot afford the program fee?
What if I cannot get to the Volunteer Center on Saturdays for the program?
Why is the Volunteer Center involved with screen time and mental health?
When and where will Connecting IRL meet?
What if I cannot attend one of the sessions or cannot stay the whole time?
Why do I have to have a smart phone and accept texts to participate?


Are you still going to hold the program amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

As with all organizations, we are carefully monitoring this rapidly-evolving situation to make decisions that protect the health and wellness of all participants. After reviewing the instructions from state and local agencies, and considering the fact that youth are not a high-risk population, we plan to continue with the program. We are making modifications, such as selecting fewer student participants, integrating social-distancing, requiring frequent handwashing, and conducting deep office cleaning.

We sincerely believe that the timing for this program's content is more valuable than ever, since many are spending long hours on screens and facing a variety of emotions with school closures and cancelled activities. We are excited to offer this new program to interested teens to teach them alternate methods of connecting with others in a safe space, as well as coping tools they can use.

[Program update coming soon!] 

Back to top

Who should apply for this program?

Connecting IRL is for the everyday teen - sophomores, juniors and seniors attending a high school in or around the South Bay or Long Beach - who may be struggling with screen time and want a safe space to practice reconnecting in real life. Designed with valuable input from teens themselves, the program will help teens understand the link between screen time and well-being, as well as provide a place where teens can connect and share experiences with each other, and learn ways to cope when they’re struggling. Click here to learn more about our new focus and click here to learn about our Youth Mental Health research and development.

Back to top

How would you describe this program and its outcomes to schools, organizations and parents?

This program is a community-based, skill-building program focused on increasing awareness, empathy and resilience in youth. It is not meant to be formal group therapy or a replacement for mental health services. While teens will learn the benefits of volunteer service, participate in service projects, and earn service hours, volunteerism is not the main purpose of the program. 

Back to top

What will the teen participants learn?

The program will help individual teens navigate a world focused on screens and combat the pressure of perfection by raising awareness around screen usage and habits, offering opportunities to form closer connections to other teens, normalizing the struggles everyone is facing, and give teens more coping tools to practice regularly.

Back to top

How much does the program cost and when/how do I have to pay it?

The program fee is $10 a session or $50 total. The fee helps cover program materials for each participant. The full $50 is due prior to the first session and can be paid by cash, check or credit card. More details will be provided when a teen is selected to participate.

Back to top

What if I cannot afford the program fee?

Need-based scholarships are available. If a teen would like to be considered for a scholarship, they should answer "yes" to the question on the application "Do you have a need for a scholarship to help with program fees?" and provide an explanation in the next field. The explanation is required to be considered for scholarship assistance.

Back to top

What if I cannot get to the Volunteer Center on Saturdays for the program?

Need-based scholarships are available for rideshare transportation to and from the program. If a teen would like to be considered for a transportation scholarship, they should answer "yes" to the question on the application "Do you have a need for scholarship assistance for rideshare transportation to and from the program?" and provide an explanation in the next field. The explanation is required to be considered for scholarship assistance. 

Back to top

Why is the Volunteer Center involved with screen time and mental health?

The heart of our work has always involved listening to the community's greatest needs. This allows us to bring everyone together "at the heart of helping" to address those needs. When we began interviewing community members in 2017 as part of a strategic planning process to improve our current programs and learn the critical needs currently facing our community, we never imagined the crisis we would find. Click here to learn more about what we learned and heard from the community, and how we are addressing it with our new, all-encompassing program, Engaging Hearts and Minds.

Back to top

When and where will Connecting IRL meet?

Connecting IRL will meet at the Volunteer Center, 1230 Cravens Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501. There is plenty of parking in the Center’s lot located at the south east corner of Cravens and Torrance Blvd. (just west of Harbor Animal Hospital), as well as on the street in front of the building. 

We are carefully monitoring the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation to make decisions that protect the health and wellness of all participants, and we plan to continue the program with modifications. The program's five Saturday sessions will be rescheduled soon.

Back to top

What if I cannot attend one of the sessions or cannot stay the whole time?

In order to participate in the program, teens must commit to being on time and attending all five sessions. Prior to the start of the program, both teens and a parent/guardian must sign a commitment letter stating that you will be on time and attend all five sessions to complete the program. 

Back to top

Why do I have to have a smart phone and accept texts to participate?

The Volunteer Center is dedicated to meeting teens where they are, and we are not advocating a completely screen-free existence. This program focuses on building awareness and providing a gentle, gradual approach to reducing screen time. Homework assignments will involve texting, and exercises will be completed on smart phones during the sessions.