A lot has changed since I walked through the doors of The Darien Times in 2005. The town has changed. Downtown is different. Town officials and boards are different. Town government is different. The school leadership has changed.
The Darien Times has changed. Local media has changed. Those reporting the news have changed and the sources we look to for news have changed.
What continues to withstand, though, is The Depot, and program director Janice Marzano.
One of the first places I ever visited as a new Darien Times reporter was The Depot. From there, I continued to visit weekly, talking with students who frequented it, and with Janice. From those early beginnings, I learned the vastly different types of students that live in Darien — and how Janice managed to engage them all. I marveled at her dedication; was sometimes intimidated by her undeniable, no-baloney straightforwardness; and pondered how lucky Darien kids were to have her as an friend and an advocate.
Today’s world will continue to change. Family dynamics are as individual as human beings. We are busier today than ever. Social media is a relentless drumbeat in all of our heads to be the best, the most popular, the prettiest and the happiest. It is much more so to our vulnerable and growing children.
Darien is a town that promotes and applauds excellence. That is to be admired, but we sometimes forget that it is also a ton of pressure on those who both revel in that excellence and those who can’t — or don’t believe they can — come close to achieving it.
The closest of parents and children still sometimes might have a tough time communicating openly.
The Depot and Janice Marzano serve as a place for all children and teens (and even young adults) to find refuge, to seek that stable foundation they know will always be there for them.
It serves as a platform and a prompt for extremely difficult parental and family conversations — substance abuse, sexual activity, suicide, mental illness, and eating disorders, to name a few.
Janice is willing to put herself personally on the line if she feels a program is critical for Darien kids’ safety — as we learned when she suggested a talk on a type of birth control she felt was being misused that included a controversial organization.
The backlash was intense, and personally painful for her. But for Janice, there is nothing more important than the education and safety of “her kids.”
It is critical that the Darien community not only invest in this resource during The Depot’s annual appeal, but also make the best use of it. If you haven’t been to The Depot, visit it. If your kids don’t take part in its programs, try it out. There are many towns in Connecticut that don’t have such a place as The Depot, and there is no other town in the country that has someone like Janice Marzano at it youth center’s helm.
Don’t squander such an opportunity — invest in it, respect it, and above all — make good use of it.