The Malden Teen Enrichment Center Fosters a Loving Community

The Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC) is a special place in our community where Malden teens can discover more about themselves and build friendships with their peers. MTEC brings together opportunities and connections for young people in Malden. The Center plays an important role in the lives of many teens in the city of Malden. 

To some, it may look like MTEC is just a building with teenagers tired from their day at school, but MTEC is more than just a physical building: It is considered a home away from home to some teenagers in Malden.

From the moment a student steps through its door, they are met with a loving energy. With the encouragement of self-expression and personal development, MTEC empowers teens to envision their future selves and to always pursue their dreams. 

(L) The hangout/chill room. (R) The auditorium room. VICTORIA DOMICIANO

Jay Ortiz, a Youth Leader, explains how in his sophomore year of high school, he and his friends always wanted a space to hang out and chill after school. The Malden Public Library was their hangout place, but you can’t be too loud in the library. The students contacted Cathy Mac—who shared the same thoughts about wanting a place teenagers could go to, leading Mac to eventually become the founder of MTEC. “This eventually blossomed and grew until what we now know as Malden Teen Enrichment Center itself. It’s been running for ten years,” Ortiz said.

Sheena Lapia, another Youth Leader, says that MTEC was open during her years of high school. She ended up getting a job as a teen and she continues to work there today because she hopes to be able to help teenagers stay out of trouble and have a safe space to come to after school instead of following the wrong crowd.

MTEC mainly gets hectic right after school comes to an end, as all the teenagers are hungry and restless after a long day attending classes. Throughout the day, kids come in, enjoy some free food, hang out with friends, and get their work done. 

With the many activities and programs MTEC provides, students mainly enjoy being in the library which is filled with many books, board games, video games, card games, table tennis, pool, and a couple of pianos. 

The library where students can watch movies, read, hang out, and more. VICTORIA DOMICIANO

Additionally, Ortiz runs the guitar program as well as the boxing program. In addition to the guitar and boxing programs, MTEC also hosts an art program, cooking and baking classes, and a variety of other activities. “We are planning on starting overnight camping trips starting up in February around New Hampshire or the general area in Boston. Not a lot of kids have ever gone out and slept on a tent overnight,” Ortiz explained.

The MTEC is also planning on going on a snowshoeing trip to New Hampshire during Winter Break and staying at a lodge for days. In fact, this is a trip they happen to take annually. “This is pretty much just a free, safe space for kids to come in and relax and they can take part in any of those activities and programs. A lot of kids feel like this is home,” Lapia detailed.

Not only does MTEC consist of programs and activities, it also includes a variety of college opportunities, with partnerships at Malden Catholic. Lapia explained, “we are looking into financial programs, like how to balance finance when you are an adult and different life skills,” as well as the opportunity for warm meals every day. “Not everyone gets the chance to eat at home, so we try our best to have a warm meal at least once every day,” Lapia said.

“Not everyone has a good home life, so ideally this would be a hangout even if it’s just to come by and talk for a couple of minutes, at least they feel comfortable enough to even show up.”

Jay Ortiz

Generally, there is not a schedule students have access to, but the MTEC tries their best to provide calendars every month so that teenagers can see the activities and food options ahead of time. Ortiz noted how they are working on having separate calendars every month and some weekly schedules so that the kids can see what they are participating in every day.

“Not everyone has a good home life, so ideally this would be a hangout even if it’s just to come by and talk for a couple of minutes, at least they feel comfortable enough to even show up,” Ortiz said. “I just want kids to feel like they don’t have to be pressured to be a certain way.”

The MTEC has switched to multiple different buildings over the years, but now they are located at 7 Washington Street. Due to them changing buildings so frequently in the last couple of years, they have had trouble reaching newer high school students. “We are going to try our best to be at the high school at least once every week, just so we can show our faces more,” Ortiz stated.

Luiza Fernanda working on a puzzle in the Library. VICTORIA DOMICIANO

It is clear that the Malden Teen Enrichment Center is more than a physical building; it is a community that invests in their students’ thriving future and believes in the safety of teenagers. With a free open space for every Malden student, everyone is welcome to feel safe.

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