As a young teenager it can be challenging to make friends and find meaningful activities during breaks from school, especially in a neighborhood where resources are limited. For Lisa, this was even harder. She recalls herself as a very shy person who had a difficult time making friends. Lisa was always a great student, but her introvert personality prevented her from participating in group activities or speaking in public. Lisa began her story with CentroNía at a young age when she first joined the Pre-K program. At the time when Lisa joined CentroNía, her parents were very familiar with the organization having enrolled their older children in the program as well. While Lisa and her siblings were learning and growing at CentroNía, her parents were able to both work full-time to provide for their family.

“My older brother and sister attended CentroNía before I did. Being very familiar with the program, my parents knew it was a safe place where I had the opportunity to learn and make friends,” says Lisa.

Once Lisa entered elementary school, she transitioned to Studio R.O.C.K.S., CentroNía’s out-of-school time program, where she continued learning alongside peers her age. In Studio R.O.C.K.S. students express themselves through visual and performing arts, explore the worlds of science and math through exciting games, and practice literacy skills. In this program, Lisa had the opportunity to participate in a week long camping trip. The camp, she recalls, had a variety of activities meant to empower students to try new things and explore anything and everything they could. While on the trip, Lisa received love and support from her teachers – especially her favorites Ms. Bertha and Mr. Ricky. She felt inspired and encouraged to believe in herself. With confidence, she decided to try every activity offered at the camp.

“At the beginning of the summer, I didn’t realize what I was in for—that participating in the Studio R.O.C.K.S. summer program would change my life forever!” says Lisa.

After the camp, Lisa left her shy personality behind and blossomed into a whole new person. “I was painfully shy, but [afterwards] all fear vanished,” she says. Surprising even herself, Lisa fell in love with theater and upon returning home got involved at a local theater. CentroNía gave her confidence to explore the world with curious eyes and the opportunity to make lifelong friends.

Today, at age 24, Lisa is now the Director of the Visitation Program at the Family Place, an organization focused on empowering low-income families to foster the development of young children through educational and support services. She completed her bachelor’s degree in just three years and is preparing to enter Ohio University to obtain her doctorate. She dreams of one day opening her own clinic.

As she reflects back on her time at CentroNía, Lisa is thankful for having the opportunity to be in a safe, multicultural environment where she learned to overcome her fears and meet many people that continue to inspire her to this day.