At 17, Jennifer has had to deal with a lot of family problems that she’s not eager to remember or talk about. In treatment at JCCA’s Avenue H office, she was one of the first members of Teen Council. Talking about her experiences, her face lights up as she puts into words how the experience has changed her.

I go to a pretty good school but I guess I just kind of got lost there. At Teen Council, that can’t happen. I’d never been in a group where I didn’t know anyone, but right from the beginning it was very comfortable. Everyone respected each other, and you didn’t feel stupid or put down.

Just going out and doing things I’d never done really began to change me. You see how people in the community struggle but I never thought about doing something to help them. Now, I see that what I do can make a really big difference. Someday, I’d like to be a social worker. I’m taking a class in psychology I’d never have done that before Teen Council.

My little sister Natalie is in Teen Council also. At home, we never got along and we fought a lot, but here things changed. We became friends because we did things together. I remember when we spent hours weeding at East New York Farms, it was like we were little kids. No yelling, No screaming, just having fun and laughing. A lot of the bad things we’ve been through just kind of fell away. Since then everything between us is calm and more of sisterly love. But in the future I’d like to see myself working with kids and building them up for a better future. I thank JCCA, especially Jasmine and Maria, for everything they have done for me. I look upon them as my inspiration and encouragement. Throughout this whole experience I was able to make new friends, discover new places I’ve never been before, and I was able to give back to the community, which I’ve never really done before. I hope that this program continues when I’m gone because, honestly, it’s a beautiful mind-opening, fun experience for any child.