An Inside Look Into The Malden Teen Enrichment Center

When it comes to the Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC), it seems as though everyone at Malden High knows about it. But do you truly know what they are all about? And just how much do they have to offer to the youth of Malden?

The MTEC was officially started way back on December 12th, 2012. In fact, this December, the MTEC celebrates its ten-year anniversary. They plan to celebrate by hosting a huge party and fundraiser.

But how did MTEC get to be ten years old? Well it all started in 2011, when a shooting occurred in Malden, shaking up the population. After that happened “a group of us got together, just people that just love the city of Malden and love the kids,” Cathy MacMillan, Head Coordinator of the MTEC explained. 

This group of concerned adults worked hard to host their very first teen night at the YMCA. On just the first night they had over 120 kids and with each night hosted, the numbers just continued to grow. 

As numbers began to grow, and times continued to change, Mayor Gary Christenson was elected. When he was finally in office, MacMillan explained that, “Greg Lucey [member of the City Council] brought it to the Council. The mayor approved [the start of this program], but it still had to get by the city council.” 

Many people supported this new program and with votes being close, Steve Ultrino, a State representative who at the time was a member of the City Council, ended up being the last vote needed. People like Mayor Christenson, Lucey, and Ultrino helped to build up the program with their support, and encouragement. 

MacMillan explained that Mayor Christenson had been with them since the beginning because “he believes in us, and he believes in all the kids.”

“And this has just grown to be something that is just wonderful,” MacMillan said, reminiscing on the beginning of the program.

(Left) A photo wall of the MTEC’s many activities, at the entrance of the building. Photo taken by Hadjar Yousfi.

(Middle) The Pool Table located in the auditorium of the MTEC. Photo by Hadjar Yousfi.

(Right) A beautiful seating area inside of the MTEC building. Photo by Hadjar Yousfi.

Over the past few years, MTEC has bounced around from building to building, but they finally seemed to have found the best one for them. The center is currently located at 7 Washington St. Malden and is open to all high school-aged students who live in Malden or go to school in Malden. 

“We have the location that is essentially right up the street,” Jay Ortiz, Youth Leader, explained. He thinks that this is extremely helpful as it allows students a fun place to go directly after school with little travel time. 

The doors open at 2:30, roughly 15 minutes after classes at the high school end. Currently, students sit in the cafeteria where “we always have food, already set up for the kids,” Ortiz explained. “They then have about an hour to have some free food.”

During this time the Youth Leaders are setting up the equipment for the students to use, since during the morning, 7 Washington Street is also known as the senior center. They set up various things such as the pool table, ping pong tables, their Playstation 4, Xbox 1, and many other things for the students to use in the hours to come. 

Sophomore students Raine Gatrey, and Leo De Souza playing a board game in the MTEC Library. Photo by Hadjar Yousfi.

Around 3:30 the rest of the building is finally opened up to the students. This allows them access to a huge and wonderfully stocked building. There are many things to do such as playing ping pong, pool, badminton, maybe using the Xbox, Playstation, or piano. Maybe you’d like to bring in a group and play dodgeball.  You could also find a place to study or just chat with friends. 

Jake Mullin-Bernstein, Activities Director explained that “we have the library, so if they need a quiet place to do homework,” students have the ability to just sit in there, study, chat, read, or play a board game. 

There is almost no limit to the things that you can do at the MTEC. Students get access to all this for no fee, but they do need to register, as a safety precaution, and for statistical purposes. However, there is no commitment if you don’t want to go back you don’t want to. After registering, your membership will be active until you graduate from high school.

(L to R) Hala and Shahd Abdulghani, Alex Moco. Photo taken by Hadjar Yousfi. 

Essentially MTEC is a “free safe space for high school-aged students who either live in Malden or go to school in Malden,” according to Sheena Lapia-Pappas another Youth Leader. 

Overall MTEC is pretty laid back “we are like a drop-in center, in the sense that we’re open every day after school for them, but we also have the more structured programs,” Mullin-Bernstein explained, so then what sort of structured things happened at MTEC?

At MTEC, students also have access to different activities, such as the Fine Arts Club, cooking classes, camping trips, skiing trips, trips to DC, snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, and helping out at the Community Garden. They also hope to bring back their Friday movie nights and are slowly hosting more tournaments every one to two weeks for games such as badminton, or ping pong. 

Students have access to these and many other incredible activities at MTEC. These activities are as expected quite expensive. MacMillan touched up on this topic, stating, “I think people think that we get all our money from the city-- and we don’t.”

Lapia-Pappas explained “we’re a nonprofit, we do not take money for anything that we do, any of our services. It is all funded through grants and donations.” 

This program is also funded a lot by the many partnerships MTEC has. The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), the Bread of Life, and Summer Search are just a few of the organizations that support MTEC in their efforts to support the youth. 

Because of all the support they’ve had recently, MTEC hasn’t had a fundraiser in quite a while. So they hope to host one alongside their anniversary party this December. MacMillan explained that during the fundraiser they would raffle off programs. So for example, if there was a camping trip “you could sponsor someone for 30$ and that pays for them to go camping for the whole weekend.”

December, however, is quite a while away, and as of right now things are quite calm at the MTEC. Many new youth workers employed through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP), have finally started working at the MTEC. In fact, Lapia-Pappus confessed, “I started working here as a youth worker, through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.” She loved the job so much as a teen, and even now because of the various skills it taught her. 

But of course, no matter the time of year, and how calm everything is behind the scenes, things are always busy and plans are always in progress. Because, “the population is always changing and social norms are always changing, so the things that people like vary from year to year,” as Lapia-Pappas explained.

MacMillan illustrated the idea of a program that is currently being discussed and has not been started just yet. “We’re talking about starting a women’s program and talking about women’s issues, and women’s books. There’s a book out now that is called Electable [by Ali Vitali], and it has everything to do with why there isn't and when there is going to be a woman president.” 

But that's not all! MacMillan hopes to bring in different domestic violence survivors to talk about not only “how they struggled, but where they are today. Which is a success story!”

Things such as the topics above, and other mental health-related topics, are important to talk about in this day and age, because as MacMillan expressed, “when we think of first aid we think of a bandaid, and when it’s mental health you can’t put a bandaid on it.” Hence, she wants to make sure teens at the center are given the support and resources they need. 

Mentorship is also an important aspect offered at MTEC “Not a lot of kids have that kind of mentorship that I think they deserve,” Ortiz explained. He hopes that he and the other leaders are able to offer that to the teens, and give them the support they need.

MacMillan feels passionate that students should stop by, “...come! It’s yours, MTEC is your building, from the 9th grade to the 12th grade, it’s your building, you make it what you want. As long as you respect this building and respect each other, this is yours, and that's what the mayor wanted it to be, that's what we wanted it to be.”

And so do the other MTEC Youth Leaders, Mullin-Bernstein explained that MTEC is a good place to go “...just to have a place to go after school, where you know you’re gonna support, whether that's with school work. Or mental health, any issues that you’re having. And you know having people that you can talk to and seek counseling from. And just be able to hang out with your friends in a safe place, and build a network.”

MTEC has been around for a long time, and since the very beginning it has done a huge deal for teenagers around Malden. It really has “grown to be something that is just wonderful,” MacMillan described.

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