Walking up to a completely strange young person and successfully convincing him or her that going back to school or getting into a GED program is a good idea, is not an easy task for even the most seasoned youth workers. However, Barend got over 40 youth to come into the Worcester Youth Center to be tested for their basic skills level of academic achievement. Many of them entered the GED program at the Center to work towards a high school equivalency diploma.
“I came to the Worcester Youth Center looking for a job,” recalls Yesenia Maysonet. Her friend recommended a youth leader stipend position, so Yesenia walked in, interviewed and was hired the same day. Within a year or two, she was supervising other peer leaders, creating new community service projects and running the snack bar. She chaired the Teen Action Group and attended Executive Board meetings, fascinated by the behind-the-scenes process of decision-making.
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.