At 17, Ivy knows she has a voice and ideas she wants to share with the world.

Through Teen BLOCK at Lowell CHC, Ivy learned just how much her voice matters.

This high school junior already has a lot figured out. “I’m going to be a neuroscientist,” she says without a hint of indecision, before outlining a set of milestones for the next 10 years.

With the support of Lowell CHC’s Teen BLOCK youth development program, she’s learned that not all of her goals have to wait a decade.

It’s no secret where Ivy gets her drive. Her parents left a life of financial stability in Kenya to move to Dracut when Ivy was only 5 years old. “It was a huge culture shock. It wasn’t easy,” she recalls. “They wanted more opportunities for us, and the freedom that comes with saying you’re an American, having a Western education.”

Knowing full well the opportunity she’d been given, Ivy became driven to achieve, earning top grades while carefully planning her path after high school. When a friend introduced her to Teen BLOCK, she started to think in the here and now.

“Teens are always told, ‘Your voice matters.’ But adults often stop listening. It was amazing to see this place where our opinions really mean something – where we can make decisions.”

Ivy became deeply involved in Dance 4 Peace, an evening of performance art centered around a topic of non-violence. Attended by nearly 1,000 each August, Dance 4 Peace is organized and executed completely by the teens.

“It was amazing to feel like I was part of something bigger, that there were all of these people there to support me. It made me open up, feel more confident that I could really make change happen.”

It’s that confidence boost that helped Ivy take another leap and start Project We Care, to provide personal hygiene items to homeless women. Ivy was outraged to learn that women can’t use SNAP benefits to purchase tampons, pads, and other supplies.

“Every woman should have access to basic care and hygiene. It’s a human issue.”

With support from Teen BLOCK Director Ruth Ogembo, Ivy received a $300 grant from the Mass Department of Public Health (DPH) to get Project We Care started. When the Greater Lowell Community Foundation found out about Ivy’s work, it also stepped up, pledging $1,000 towards the cause. Wow.

Empowered by her experiences at Teen BLOCK, Ivy has the tools, and the passion, to take action – action that is having an immediate impact on women in Greater Lowell.

Our community and our world are lucky to have Ivy’s voice ringing through loud and clear.

“Without Teen BLOCK I never would have had this opportunity. It’s been a transformational experience. All it takes is one person.”