Teen Sidekicks

The Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD) is committed to the needs of the community by providing safe, fun, and inclusive programs for neurodiverse children. For teens looking to complete required volunteer hours, build their college applications, or for those who have a passion working with children, PRD offers the opportunity to make a difference in a neurodiverse child's life. Teen Sidekicks are truly committed to helping children enjoy recreational activities and work closely with students with unique needs. Sidekicks are responsible, punctual, patient, and enjoy working with children. The Sidekicks program thrives because of our teen volunteers — we simply couldn't do it without our Teen Sidekicks.

There are several different types of Sidekicks programs. During the school year, there are after-school classes as well as one-day workshops that typically occur on the weekends. The Sidekicks Summer Program offers adaptive camps throughout the summer as well as three weeks of 1-on-1 Matching.

The primary role of a Teen Sidekick is to assist a class/camp instructor. Adaptive program activities are designed to be more accessible for children with neurodiverse needs. Adapting a typical program curriculum takes into account the unique needs of neurodiverse children. Each adaptive class/camp takes place in carefully chosen facilities, with fewer distractions, and the curriculum and pace of the class are modified to support kids who build confidence as they learn new skills. Teen Sidekicks help participants navigate the class/camp environment that may be overwhelming, frustrating, and sometimes brand new to them. Some examples of this include:

  • If a child gets overstimulated, the teen sidekick can take a break with them. Once they have re-regulated, they will return to the program.
  • An instructor may ask the Teen Sidekick to explain the activity to a participant and work at a different pace to assist them with the project task.
  • High-fives... Lots and lots of high-fives!

To play an integral role in supporting the overall camp experience for a child with neurodiverse needs, please click on the application links below to apply. After an applicant is screened by Sidekicks staff, they will be invited to an in-person interview. If selected, they attend a two-hour orientation/training to learn about the unique needs of neurodiverse children and the basic principles of behavior management.

Sidekicks Staff support Teen Sidekicks throughout their experience. With the help of trained instructors, PRD staff work with each Sidekick to provide feedback, tips, and tricks, guidance, and are always available for one-on-one consultations. It is important that each Teen Sidekick feel like they have the tools to succeed!

New Sidekicks are welcome to volunteer for any adaptive program (school year or summer) throughout the year. Each adaptive class/camp is supported by multiple Teen Sidekicks. Returning Sidekicks may also volunteer for the Summer Sidekicks 1-on-1 Matching Program. During the Summer Sidekicks 1-on-1 Matching Program, Teen Sidekicks are paired with a neurodiverse camper, and will meet with their assigned camper and family before camp begins to better understand the child's individual needs. Then they attend camp each day together!

"I couldn't love this program more if I tried. Having a teen sidekick with my son, even for half of the day of camp, provided me with so much reassurance. I loved that the Sidekicks got to know him before camp, and we're prepared to help him with the areas he struggles with."

"I am really grateful that my child has been able to participate in PRD programs. Having a sidekick definitely enriched the experience for both him and for us."

Application Process

The application deadline to be a Teen Sidekick is March 17, 2024. Applicants must be at least 14 years of age by June 5, 2024, or entering 9th grade. After completing a successful interview, teens must attend an orientation/training on May 1, 2024 at 6:00 pm, and commit to volunteering at least one week during the summer.

Community service hours are available upon request. Volunteers may be eligible to receive a letter of recommendation. Experience working with elementary-aged children is a bonus, but not required.

Teen Sidekicks Applications