Jeff Snyder, 28, didn’t always plan on working with kids. In fact, he studied criminology at the University of Maryland.
“I thought I wanted to go to law school,” Snyder says. “I had an internship with a law firm, and realized I needed to work with people more.”
After working at a school for individuals with autism and as an advocate for adults with disabilities, he began working at the JCC of Greater Baltimore three years ago. Snyder currently serves as director of relational engagement for 4Front, a community initiative supported by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore that encourages teens to explore their Jewish identities in ways that are meaningful to them. Snyder is also the Middle School Coordinator at the JCC, where he directs Top Notch Teens (TNT).
“TNT is a summer camp for seventh and eighth graders at the JCC. It is my favorite part of my job,” he says. “The teens volunteer in the preschool at the JCC, earning service hours in the morning, and then have traditional camp electives in the afternoon. I love it because I get to see the campers every day and watch them grow throughout the summer.”
Originally from Columbia, Md., his wife Alana, their 1-year-old daughter Kenzie, their chihuahua Emma, and French bulldog Manny live in Pikesville.
What is it like to work with kids and teens?
I love working with teens because they are at such a fun age. They are really discovering what interests them and what their passions are. I like to connect with them and learn about the things teens are interested in these days. The challenge is keeping up with the new technology, social media, and trends of teens. It seems like every week there is a new thing to keep up with.
Certainly social media has been one of the biggest revolutions of this past century. What is your opinion on it?
I think, for the most part, social media is a good thing. I like being able to look on Instagram and see some of my high school friends who I haven’t seen in a while post exciting things like engagements, new jobs, new babies, and more.
I have also seen the negative side; especially with my teens where social media can cause FOMO [“Fear of missing out”] or make teens feel like they aren’t included. I think it’s important to remember that for the most part, people post their highlights — they aren’t posting pictures of themselves at their worst times.
How does your Jewish identity intersect with your mentorship responsibilities?
I was lucky to have some great mentors when I was a teen, specifically my high school baseball coach. He was a great role model to me and helped me find my passions and grow. I now hope to be that type of person for the teens I work with. I think part of your Jewish identity is finding something you really care about — I help teens chase those passions and make a difference.
What is the weirdest thing about Baltimore to you?
I think the strangest thing about Baltimore is that most people don’t leave. I grew up 30 minutes away from Baltimore but if someone from Baltimore asks if I grew up in Baltimore, I have to say no because they don’t consider Columbia and Baltimore the same. If someone from Texas asked where I grew up, I would just say Baltimore!
What is a controversial opinion you have?
I have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones and have no desire to ever watch it.