Jean Clemente found a new beginning when he walked through the door of the Worcester Youth Center. “It was a welcoming environment,” he remembers. His mother had moved next door when he was 11. Jean soon became an outreach worker in the SPIN program (Safe Products in the Neighborhood), handing out “Spindex,” a homemade, non-toxic cleaner. He moved on to be a Teen Health Outreach Worker, where he attended youth summits around the state and made presentations on reproductive health.
“From the start,” he says, “the Youth Center boosted my people skills.” Jean received the United Way’s Youth of the Year award just before finishing Forest Grove Middle School. He gained skills leading 11 other youth during a summer job at a Paxton farm, where he found “everything’s wet in the morning.”
His most interesting year, he said, was 11th grade. A top football prospect, the linebacker/tight end became a business owner too. After practice, he headed over to the Youth Center and created a frozen juice business through the UMicro program. “Luxurious Taste” offered “limbe,” slushy drinks with flavors like mango, passionfruit and coconut, which he sold from his house next door.
An early season football injury sidelined him senior year, and forced him to explore other options. After graduation from Doherty, he spent a year working nights, but knew he had to “move forward.” The Youth Center’s culinary training program at Quinsigamond Community College offered a new path. Completing the course last spring, he’s already moved from NuCafe’s kitchen to become a bar/line cook at the Sole Proprietor. “In the kitchen, every day is new,” he said. “We have to be ready.”
The Youth Center gave Jean practical, everyday skills, the ability to communicate and listen to others, and, he says, a “really good work ethic.”