Alumni Stories: “Where Are They Now?”

A teenage Yee pictured at AFH.

“Everybody was so welcoming, and it felt like a second home. I always wanted to [go to the studio] right after school and learn new things. That was my first job, so I was like, ‘Wow! Is this how every job will be?’”

Yee remembers her first days at AFH and being blown away by how incredibly welcoming it was. “There’s no judgment,” she said. “It was such a positive environment and everyone was willing to teach you things.” She recalls one particular day in the Painting Studio — since traditional painting was never Yee’s strong suit or interest, she asked Ryan Conley if the studio did any graffiti work. Ryan led her to Rob Gibbs [Co-Founder/Director of the Painting Studio] who showed her his spray paint and graffiti work. Fifteen year old Yee was delighted. “Once you display interest in something, [the mentors at AFH] are like, ‘Come with me! Let me show you what I do!’ It just opened whole new horizons for me.”

One of Yee’s works from the Photography Studio at AFH.

“That’s when I was like, yeah, this is my studio. I love this. This is the best studio of all the studios!”

There was no doubt that Yee enjoyed her work in the Photography Studio, but at the same time she struggled with feeling comfortable with herself and finding her path. “I was still trying to find out more about myself and where I belong,” she admitted. “I didn’t know how I was going to keep moving forward with my life.” It was only when Haidan recognized potential in Yee that she began to believe in herself as well. “She started telling me to lead projects with the group, and she’d say, ‘Okay Lena, I’m leaving for the day. Here’s the key. Take care of the studio’… I was like, oh my god, you trust me with this?”

“That’s what I learned from AFH — leadership skills, organization, and work ethics in general.”

Yee working in the Photography Studio at AFH

“AFH is so great with giving back to the community and giving teens a place to be safe after school instead of being in the streets.”

After graduating high school in 2012, Yee pursued higher education at UMass Boston. Yee enjoyed her time at AFH, but she knew that art was just a hobby for her. She changed her major three times before graduating in 2016 with a degree in Exercise and Health Sciences. She then worked at the Partnership Program at the YMCA in Quincy, where she became an inclusion rehab trainer.

One of Yee’s works from the Photography Studio at AFH.

“Without AFH, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t have come as far as I have.”

Yee is still in contact with many of the people she met at AFH, and every year she attends The Greatest Party On Earth. “I can never leave,” she said laughing. “If AFH is opening a nursing job, I’m here!” Today, Yee still enjoys photography, though she shoots more on her phone than a DSLR, and enjoys trying new mediums on the side. “I’m starting to learn how to do watercolor now!” she said excitedly. “I feel like art in general is a good therapy session…it helps me express my emotions and relax my mind.”

Yee pictured as an adult.

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