Meet Your Neighbor: Marlena Starace

QCH opened up a Beacon  Program in my Junior High School when I was in 8th grade. The program offered a safe space to hang out with friends and get advice from counselors. It’s exactly what I needed at the time, so my friends and I joined. That was twenty years ago. Now I’m the program’s Assistant Director.

As a young person, QCH’s Beacon program helped me find my voice. As a member of the Youth Council I helped organize community-wide events as a fifteen year old. Our open mic nights would draw hundreds to the auditorium!

It was through the Beacon that I discovered my passion for advocacy. I spoke on the steps of City Hall and traveled to Albany each time the program faced elimination. Now, years later, I organize those same trips for the youth.

I’ve been through difficult times in my life, and at each turn, my Beacon family was there for me. I’ve had so much support, both personally and professionally. Counselors I met as a kid in eighth grade are now my colleagues, and I continue to learn from them. They saw so much in me that I never saw in myself.

As Assistant Director, I feel like I have big shoes to fill. Our program has seen incredible, fearless leaders. But I know I can do it. I have an entire community supporting me.

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