Roxborough resident Amy Scalera has always known that working with children was her calling.
She didn’t fully realize the possibilities of that calling until she spoke to an honor class at Arcadia University about her work as a youth minister at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Roxborough. The honor students were looking for a program to work with for their community service project. They chose to work with her kids.
She didn’t think the collaboration would be a problem because of the benefits it would have for both parties. She was informed that Arcadia students couldn’t participate because church policy only allowed people who were members of the congregation for two years to work with the youth program.
Instead of viewing the situation as a dead end, she viewed it as a new opportunity and sought out insurance for a small non-profit organization.
In 2011, she founded Teen UpRise, a non-profit organization serving local youth in Manayunk and Roxborough. It was designed to nurture the youth in the fourth grade through twelfth grade in a Christian environment through mentoring and programming in various arenas. It offers academic year programming such as tutoring and homework help. It also offers non-academic programming during the summer in the form of theme-based camps such as dance, hiking and camping where the kids learned how to build a fire, tent and hammock. The program concluded this week and will restart in September.
The 27-year-old believes the work she does embodies the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” augmenting lessons that parents teach such as accountability, purposefulness and resiliency. It also reinforces the necessity to become successful members in society through attending college or tech school and obtaining an apprenticeship after high school through its mentoring program with Arcadia University and the small group of volunteers.
In addition to exposing the participants to a different world outside of the neighborhood, the program is also providing a safe haven for some of the participants who come from inconstant households.
“When things go badly and some of their lives are really chaotic, they have a consistent stable place to go,” said Scalera. “Some of the kids will come three hours early before camp because their home might not be a place they want to be at”
She said that some of her participants have been exposed to substance abuse. Because of it, with the permission of the child’s parent, the teenagers are randomly drug tested.
“It’s really hard to be wholly committed to changing your lives or growing up if you are going to be in a different reality under the influence of drugs, it just won’t work” said Scalera.
She will begin teaching at a class at Arcadia University this Fall on the work she is doing at Teen UpRise. She received the opportunity after the honor students drafted a proposal for her, which passed.
Kyle Hellendall, a volunteer from Villanova University has worked with Teen UpRise since May. “I am always amazed that she is able to put out so much energy and she really is devoted to what she does,” Hellendall. “She pours her heart into everything she does and its impressive how much she loves the kids.”