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Success Story: Nena

Before she began spending time at YWCA St. Paul, Nena struggled with how to spend her time in a productive way that would build a bright future for herself.

“They introduced me to a whole bunch of activities,” she says of YW. “With them I got my first job, I got to see colleges and they’ve given me all these skills that I can put on my resume.”

Nena quickly became involved in YW’s opportunities to connect with other young people and to make a difference in her community. She also flourished when it came to defining her educational goals and took advantage of exposure to employment and career opportunities for the future.

Now as a junior at Central High School, Nena’s busy schedule includes taking classes four days a week at St. Paul College as well as participating in her school’s Speech Club, a book club that she created, tutoring, student council, an after-school job and community service.

At YWCA St. Paul, Nena also participates in the Young Women’s Initiative, a program launched by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in partnership with the Governor’s Office to address disparities that young women experience across the state of Minnesota.

“I want to live a life that’s an example for younger kids.”


“I want to live a life that’s an example for younger kids,” she says of what she’s learned through the Young Women’s Initiative and YWCA St. Paul.

Video Transcript

Nena: Before the YWCA [Sigh] I just had nothing to do. I was pretty bored and it introduced me to a whole bunch of different activities with them I got my first job. I got to see colleges and they give me all these skills I could put on my resume

Nena: Hey.

Deena Zubulake, Director of Youth Programs: Hey Nena, how are you?

Deena: Good.

Nena: How you doing?

[Neena and Deena continue conversation quietly in background.]

Deena: Here at the YWCA we create opportunities for young people to connect with one another to have opportunities to make a difference in their community, to define and articulate some goals that they may have around their own education and expose them to some employment and career opportunities for the future.

[Bus coming to a stop]

Nena:  I am on the bus a lot [laughter] it’s a good time for me to think. I just sit there and I just plan out my day like what do I have to do today, what am I going to do tomorrow. I’m a junior at Central High School and I also go to St. Paul college four days a week. On a typical Monday after school, I would either practice my speech or I would go to work. On Tuesdays, I created a book club and so we meet on Tuesdays, or I would go to work. On Wednesdays after school I stay after to help with tutoring; I also go down to the YWCA. And Thursdays I have student council and I also practice my speech. And on Fridays is like my day of rest and just get homework done and sometimes I do community service whatever they do.

Deena: The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in partnership with the governor’s office launched the Young Women’s Initiative, and it’s a collaborative effort to address disparities that young women experience across the state of Minnesota. When I went to my team and asked for some candidates for this Young Woman’s Initiative immediately the response was Nena.

Nena: I want to live a life that sets an example for younger kids.

Deena: How’s school been going?

Nena: Its okay, I’m kind of stressed out.

Deena: Tell me what-what are you stressed out about

Nena: I know like if I have a problem I can always come talk to Deena about it.

Deena: So you’ve been studying?

Nena: I’ve been trying to study. One thing that I want everyone to know about the YWCA is that is a great place to be, if you need help with school it’s really good.

Deena: It’s been really a privilege for us as an organization to be part of the journey with them, we want to acknowledge that and celebrate that with her.

Gaye Adams Massey: She can do and be whatever she sets her mind on and is willing to work for and build toward and that we were behind her supporting her all the way.

Nena: It’s really flattering that people think so highly of me because I think so highly of this place. Whatever you need, they can help you out with it. I’ve never seen a place so open to everyone and every different like, circumstance this is the place for you.

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