Do you remember your Response Center years? Please share them with us in the form located in the About Us section, select “alumni.”  Whether your participation was as a Response staff member, youth leader or through other areas of engagement, we want to hear from you! 



We knew her when.....


Media contact:
Amy Elliott Bragg

DETROIT — Preservation Detroit, the city’s largest historic preservation organization, welcomes new Executive Director Claire Nowak-Boyd. She reported to her first day of work on Thursday, Feb. 13.

As executive director of Preservation Detroit, Nowak-Boyd will build the organization’s administrative capacity, strengthen its partnerships in the community, and develop philanthropic support.

“We are thrilled to bring Claire on board to help us grow Preservation Detroit,” said Amy Elliott Bragg, president of the Board of Directors. “Her talent, experience, and vision will be a tremendous resource for our membership and for the greater community, and we’re very eager for the challenges we will tackle together.”

Nowak-Boyd brings a deep interest in urban issues and historic preservation to the role. In her hometown of St. Louis, she was a founding member of the North Side Community Benefits Alliance, where she organized with neighbors to preserve the built and social fabric of the threatened Near North Side. She served as Co-Chair of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home Committee of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, working to stabilize an 1860s building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Claire was also a volunteer with the Building Arts Foundation and a regular voice at Preservation Review Board hearings. For two years, she hosted Drinks & Mortar, a casual networking event for preservationists and architects.

Since moving to Detroit four years ago, Claire has been active and outspoken in favor of alternatives to the widening of I-94 as part of the MOSES Transportation Task Force. She recently graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts urban studies from Wayne State University.

“I’m interested in the ways that the preservation of historic buildings can dovetail with keeping longtime residents and businesses in place as Detroit rebuilds,” Nowak-Boyd said of her angle of interest in the city’s unique preservation challenges. “I am honored for the opportunity to take a leadership role in protecting and advocating for Detroit’s architectural and cultural heritage.”

Nowak-Boyd will report to Preservation Detroit’s Board of Directors. A complete and current list of Preservation Detroit’s board as of February 2014 is included with this release.


How are you able to talk to me like a person?

How do I put into words how agonizing it is to be a bundle of hormones in an awkward body and feel like no one understands? I suppose I don’t have to If anyone reading this is over 18. I was hitting the peak of my ‘I’m different and no one understands’ adolescence when I entered Response Center to volunteer for TeenAIDS. I’d seen them present at my school and I knew of the kids who had found their voices and their confidence at this office. In a strip mall. Above Edwardo’s pizza.

So I went. I filled out the forms. I volunteered. Some of the other kids there were from my school. Many weren’t. I hadn’t really thought of kids from other schools…my school was such an insulated planet of angst that I had forgotten it was part of a solar system.

The adults who worked there were baffling. Too old to be in college, but too young to be the kind of adults I had interacted with before. What do you mean you’re in your mid-twenties and getting a graduate degree in Psychology? Or Social Work? How are you able to talk to me like a person? I’m 16. No one talks to me like a person. They talk to me as if I am to be tolerated until I become a person. Even the receptionist was kind.

I didn’t talk much at first. I didn’t know what to say. Eventually I began to open up a bit. I would come in early and talk to the staff about nothing. I felt like the easiest place to be in my whole world was the worn sofa in their office. I attended meetings and asked questions. 

I also made friends. After meetings I would go to a local diner with the other volunteers from nearby towns. We didn’t know the same people, since we didn’t go to school together, but we found plenty to talk about. I never realized I could connect with people like this. It was eye opening.

The TeenAIDS group practiced presenting about STD’s and prevention at Response Center. One time I got spermicide in my eye after demonstrating putting a condom on a banana. A few months prior, this would have sent me running home to burrow under my bedcovers for the rest of my life. That day I laughed harder than anyone in the room and was the first to let everyone know that my eyeball was very likely pregnancy free.

At some point we stopped presenting at Response Center and moved to the local high schools to meet with peers. I was able to talk about the importance of sexual education and prevention without snickering. I was able to answer questions knowledgably. At the time I didn’t know where I’d found the courage to do this. Looking back it is so incredibly obvious, but isn’t everything when you’re a decade ( plus) out of it?

I couldn’t get enough of the staff and my new friends. When the opportunity came up to volunteer for a drug awareness counterpart to TeenAIDS I was the first one talking to strangers who had wandered in and didn’t yet have a clue about how awesome this place was. I was encouraging them to talk to the staff and watched new kids come out of their shells.

Response Center changed who I am at a fundamental level. The staff, volunteers and everyone who has ever used their resources knows that it is an integral part of so many people’s lives.



I was prepared for the big world outside

Response Center provided me the only release I could get from a very strict Russian Jewish household and sheltered Jewish private school education. I didn’t have sex education at school or home and we certainly didn’t talk about issues teens were facing. Response Center provided a great opportunity for me to learn how to deal with issues and it surfaced my love for volunteering.

I can’t possibly explain in words what Response Center did for me. I learned how to deal with issues teens face, made friends and blossomed out of my insecure shell. Above all I met mentors that I still keep in touch with to this day, more than ten years later.

When I went to college, I was prepared for the big world outside of my sheltered and restrictive upbringing. I knew the importance of drinking responsibly, having safer sex, and working with individuals with diverse upbringings. All these factors played a huge role in shaping who I am today.

Today I’m a responsible, hard-worker in a cooperate communications department at a large Chicago company, CME group, I volunteer when possible, I spread knowledge when possible and I have a deep appreciation for how I can impact the world around me. I am so grateful for the programming Response Center offers. I hope the organization sticks around for generations to come

-Alex Gorbokon



By: Ronnie Kroell, participant and student leader 1999-2001

I would not be where I am today without SNOWBALL. There isn’t a day that goes by without thanks for the lessons that I learned, the people I met, and the confidence I gained from being a part of such an incredible program. Words simply do not exist (in any language) to describe the warmth that fills my heart when I look back on my experiences.

Snowball gave me a place to be ME. I didn’t have to put on a mask to hide who I was or pretend to be something that I wasn’t to be accepted. It was a safe space to learn and grow; to know that I was never alone. Not only were the programs educational, but they were entertaining and inspiring! The bonds that were formed in a few short days will never be broken.

As I write this, I am wishing that an “Adult Snowball” existed! Perhaps it could teach us how to be a better friend to one-another, to embrace our differences, and to celebrate our similarities. This program taught me that there was a time to learn and a time to teach, but above all else it gave me the gift of self-love and appreciation. After all, how can we ever begin to embrace the differences of those around us if we cannot even love the reflection staring back at us?

 Snowball continues to have a priceless influence on my life. May it continue to influence and educate the hundreds of participants that sign-up each year; then the thousands that come in contact with them over the course of their life-times. I like to call this - the “SNOWBALL EFFECT”.

Submitted with LOVE and LIGHT … Keep shining SNOWBALL!
January 16, 2013










Finding One's Voice! 

I found my voice and myself through SNOWBALL 

Before joining Response Center, I was a shy, quiet, freshman who preferred to just stick to myself. I was bullied in high school terribly. When my sister suggested Snowball, I had no idea what to expect, except, pictures and stories she shared with me about when she attended years before. My first Snowball I was terrified, nervous, not knowing what to expect. When I came home from that weekend, my life had changed. And it continued for several years. The next year I joined Teens for Change and Snowball Staff. As I did the following year as well. Snowball gave me a voice. Snowball gave me a purpose. It gave me a reason to step out of my shell and find light in the otherwise dark days of high school. Between the staff at Response, who changed my life, and the friends I made, I finally had somewhere to find myself and help others. I learned how to open my mouth and be assertive for myself and others.  I learned to have confidence in myself, something that seemed impossible. I NEVER had any self-esteem. At Response Center, that wasn’t acceptable. And for that, I am forever thankful.  I learned to stick up for things I believed in. To go in front of classrooms of students and do presentations. To believe in myself that I could be something, and I WAS someone that mattered. That I WAS worth it. I would like to say that all of this would have happened if I wasn’t involved in Response Center-but that would be a complete lie. Response Center gave me a purpose and gave me my life. Through my involvement, I was even honored with a Humanitarian Award from Response Center. What an amazing honor! Response Center left me with the gift and determination to go out there and change lives. I proudly graduated from college and became a Social Worker, helping children and families. I even was an adult leader for Deerfield High School’s Snowball in 2005. It has always been a part of my life and always will be. Who else still has their shirts and Snowball binders!?! The fact that this amazing program can still continue to provide teens with life changing events, is the best thing there is. This program changes so many lives. This program saves our lives too.  I am forever grateful for Snowball, Response Center and the amazing and inspirational staff members that changed my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Diana Gelfand, proud Snowball and Teens for Change participant and leader, 1999-2001.