by Cam Walters, PASA Operations Coordinator
I first met Griselda (aka Gris) Grave and Luis Sanchez when they started attending AfterZone as 6th graders at DelSesto Middle School. During their 6th and 7th grade years, they consistently attended a wide variety of AfterZone programs where I came to know Luis to be an old soul—quiet, thoughtful, and always looking for ways to be helpful. Gris had a rough start to middle school in 6th grade, but realized that she needed to focus and improve her outlook in order to be more successful in school. They became very dedicated to the AfterZone and related to it almost like a second home.
Both Gris and Luis said that some of the biggest reasons they loved being involved in the AfterZone were because they felt accepted, valued, and respected—a huge deal for middle school students! In 8th grade, they both signed up to participate in a pilot program called “HubZone,” which PASA designed to create a personalized bridge between middle and high school. During the program, Selena Ramos, the high school intern, helped give Gris and Luis context for what to expect when they got to 9th grade. They learned about high school expectations, academic requirements for athletic programs, and peer-to-peer social influences.
After successful transitions to high school—Gris to Central high and Luis to JSEC—they both chose to continue participating in expanded learning opportunities. Luis signed up for the Hub’s ELOs at JSEC and Gris was hired as the HubZone intern for Gilbert Stuart Middle School, where she imparted wisdom about her own transition from middle to high school to a new crop of 8th graders.
Now juniors, they have kept coming back to volunteer during the AfterZone school year and for the Summer Scholars Camp. This past summer, they were paid interns through Comprehensive Community Action Program where they worked as AfterZone Summer Scholars Camp youth counselors, providing program support, peer-to-peer guidance, and overall positivity and enthusiasm.
As they look toward high school graduation next year, they’ve both begun to think seriously about career options that interest them and that would help them provide for their families.
Without these two amazing young people and their incredible energy and drive, the AfterZone, the Hub, and PASA wouldn’t be the same. I learned so much from them and continue as they grow into adulthood. They impress me every day and inspire me to continue working with the youth of Providence.
Thank you, Luis and Gris, you’re the best!