"They look up to you, (so) you have to be a good person and be a role model. And it's just fun helping kids. You feel satisfied that you can help a kid out and it makes you feel right," she said.
Maria, 17, has been coming to the center since she was 7 years old. At that time, she was able to benefit from the services they provided. Now she gives back, mentoring a young woman who is going through many of the same things Maria experienced a few years ago.
"I've been telling her how middle school is and she's been asking me what to expect when she gets to high school. I help her out with problems of hers and it's just nice to know that she has me here to help her out," she said.
Maria is involved in many of the activities at Hope Street. No matter what she takes on, one quality shines through.
"She has a huge heart. She's always here willing to help us with whatever it may be," said youth coordinator Sid Oxford. "She translates for some of our parents. She helps with other family events that we have. She's always mentoring little kids, always asking, 'can I help with something?'"
Some children see their entire world as contained within the borders of their neighborhood. But Maria wants to encourage them to look beyond.
"You want to show the kids that you can be better in life. You can be much better than what you are. You may be normal, but there might be better things you can do," said Maria.
She's a success story from the Hope Street Family Center and now she's giving back to a new generation of families. Providing inspiration and leadership makes Maria our /*Cool Kid*/.