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.