change lives.

Zola’s story: From anxious teen to budding social entrepreneur

When staff at the Teen Learning Centre in Saint John first met Zola, she was stressed and anxious: she had moved to the city from another country – culture changes and a brand new routine were hard enough; the prospect of starting high school was something else entirely.

The turning point for Zola was sparked through the Teen Resource Centre, the United Way-supported organization that helps youth reach their potential. Soon after a visit to her Grade 8 class, other youth from the centre took Zola under their wing to get her ready for her middle school graduation.

They helped her find a dress and do her hair. They attended the ceremony with Teen Learning Centre staff.

A youth adviser with Pathways to Education, a national organization that partners with the Teen Learning Centre, advocated for Zola as she entered high school and her confidence grew. 

She wanted to find a part-time job but worried a lack of work experience and her language skills might be barriers. Instead, Zola soon started cooking food from her country to sell. 

Her budding social enterprise grew into a lunch business and she now collaborates with five other youth in the business. She’s active in school activities, sports and is a strong advocate for herself, her family and other newcomer students. 

She is a role model for other teens and newcomer families. Zola was able to forge her own path ahead with the help of youth initiatives in Saint John – thanks to the generosity of United Way