The Center of Love, Memory and Acceptance

UVSO teens & Dir. Malik El-Amin taking a break from their summer job assignments
UVSO teens & Dir. Malik El-Amin taking a break from their summer job assignments

by Erica L., UVSO Summer Teen Worker

I still remember my first day at the Teen Center. One of my bestest friends dragged me inside while I tugged on my olive green sweater and adjusted my glasses. “They’ll love you. We’re like a family here.” She was always outgoing; I was more silent and reserved. I honestly didn’t think this was for me.

“It grows on you, like a warm hug,” said one of the teen workers this summer. I don’t know, maybe it’s the smiles, or the intriguing conversations with your peers, or the man that made this corner church on Richelieu Terrace a second home to me and many others.

“Mr Malik is like an uncle to me,” says Hanniyah, another teen worker. “He’s hard, yet fair to each student.” Malik El-Amin and his amazing staff have a hip vibe and have turned strict teachings into a way us teens can conform to. I like to think this program is like a process in nature called survival of the fittest. “We are not all eagles, you must learn that your peers might be ducks,” Mr. Malik says, as chuckles fill the room. Mr. Malik always has a fable in his right pocket on the keys to success in life. In nature, you are eaten by the bigger, more clever animal.  While here, those who fail to comply will be eaten by poverty, drugs, and all the other misfortune in the world.

“I thank God for sending me to a place like this. The summer jobs, great peers, respectful coordinators..I just thank God”, says Tyson, also another teen worker who has risen to be an eagle. So okay, yes, the Teen Center has its times where you just despise walking through the door, but as soon as you walk inside you remember all the good old times. Mr. Joey driving us all home in the van, Ms. Lesah cooking great meals, Ms. Chanel’s big smile, Mr. Les playing the same jokes on little kids. God, I miss those days. Chilling out on that cream sofa upstairs. Arguing over the chocolate milk with Tatiyana. The UVSO Teen Center is a privilege to each and every student it encounters. Its foundation is filled with love, memory, and acceptance.

5 thoughts on “The Center of Love, Memory and Acceptance

  1. I love coming to the UVSO teen center because out of all the youth filled locations I’ve been at, the students here are much more friendly and welcoming. Not only that, but I feel that I receive the most preparation for the real world when I attend the summer work program and various workshops on budgeting and credit score. I feel a growth of independence.

    1. I am Newark One Stop worker here at the UVSO teen center. My job is entertaining. Meeting new people has helped me break out of my shell and escape my comfort zone. I have so far learned to control young kids and work with children of all ages.

  2. UVSO teen center is not just a place to hangout, I feel comfortable and I feel at home. I can always reach out to counselors for help when I have a personal problem at home. And no matter how big they will always have an answer or a solution. I am constantly meeting new people and enjoy enhancing my social skills.

  3. I have been apart of the UVSO teen center family since I was 17 years old. Every job I have ever been provided was fun and resourceful. My relationship with Mr. Malik has exceeded any adult to teen relationship I have known and I greatly appreciate it. I know that if I ever needed anything the teen center is the first place I would go.

  4. I was practically raised by UVSO. Growing up in the Child Development Program to later move on to the Teen Program has taught me a few things. But the main idea is, UVSO is a family that wants to see you grow and succeed. Being the backbone for multiple families including my own. No matter which UVSO building I may work in during the summer or visit, I feel an abundance of compassion for the community.

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