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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

‘I’ll Miss the Family Type Relationships:’ Juceila Shares How the Teen Center Prepared her for College

“When I first came to America, I tried so hard to blend into American culture that I almost lost myself,” said Juceila, who moved from Cape Verde to Boston in the fifth grade. “Joining the Teen Center, however, made me realize just how beautiful my culture is.”

Now, as a recent high school graduate from a Boston charter school, Juceila is currently working full-time as a teaching assistant at the Teen Center’s Summer School, where she provides support to students who may have learning challenges, as well as many Cape Verdean students who have newly arrived in the United States.

“I love being able to give back to a place that is important to me,” Juceila said.

Serving the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester, the Teen Center is a safe haven offering after-school and summer programs that include academic enrichment, sports and recreation, wellness resources, and support services to hundreds of Boston’s youth. It’s a place where members are encouraged to challenge themselves and strive toward self-discipline, time management, and academic growth.

Having joined the Teen Center in the 6th grade, and a member every year since, Juceila said it will always hold a special place in her heart – it is not only where she gained confidence in her academic and extracurricular interests, but also where she forged lifelong friendships and gained role models that have inspired her to be the best version of herself.

“I’ll miss the family type of relationships that we have. We all know each other on such a personal level,” said Juceila.

Beyond offering support and a tight-knit community, the Teen Center staff strive to help the young people they work with identify academic and career opportunities that will launch them into successful futures, even after they leave the center.

In the fall, Juceila will be parting ways with her community in Dorchester to begin her new life at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, with her full tuition covered by the Posse Foundation, a scholarship that Juceila and her mother learned of through a Teen Center staff member who continually saw her potential.

It was also a Teen Center staff member who helped Juceila secure a job for the Cape Verdean Women’s Association earlier in her high school career, where she had the opportunity to work with young Cape Verdean girls who had just moved to the United States, helping them to navigate the challenges of adapting to a new culture and language.

Over the years, as Juceila has grown and matured, she said she has noticed the Teen Center growing too – constantly seeking to better itself and to help and accommodate all those who walk through its doors.

“Being at the Teen Center for all this time, first as a student and then as a staff member, has been so amazing, especially getting to see new kids connect,” she said. “I have noticed over the years the center has become more and more diverse. Kids are learning about each other’s cultures, and it’s so beautiful to see.”

To learn more about the Teen Center, click here.

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