During her second semester of college in 2020, Chisom Onukaogu began to feel overwhelmed. She was struggling to balance her academics, extracurricular activities, and commitments to family and friends.
In need of advice, she turned to a familiar place — her “chosen family” in Washington Heights at the Uptown Hub.
“My youth advocate at the Uptown Hub, Athena Matos, helped me create a schedule to organize a time for everything, but specifically made sure there was time for myself — to walk around a park, to breathe,” recalls Chisom, 20. “Having a schedule helped me a lot.”
That guidance was just one example of how the Uptown Hub has helped Chisom manage the demands of life.
“The staff have given me support and guidance, and have helped me succeed not just academically and professionally but emotionally,” she says.
The Uptown Hub, also known as the Hub, is a community space on West 168th Street in Washington Heights. It opened its doors in October 2017 after NewYork-Presbyterian, in collaboration with Columbia University Irving Medical Center, received a $10.3 million grant from the Manhattan District Attorney of New York’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative. The goal was to establish a place in the neighborhood where youth and young adults could have access to support services, activities, and opportunities.
Since 2017, the Uptown Hub has provided a safe space to more than 1,000 members between ages 14 and 24. The Hub, which works in partnership with several community-based organizations in the area, is a home base for them to meet friends, connect with mentors, and participate in fun activities, including painting, playing video games, and watching movies. Members also have access to free services and resources as they navigate their future, are provided with one-on-one support from one of the Hub’s four youth advocates, and can speak with three psychologists who are on-site.
“It is remarkable to think that almost six years have passed since we accepted our first member at the Hub, and how we have grown exponentially,” says Davina Vaswani Prabhu, vice president of the Ambulatory Care Network at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Division of Community and Population Health.
“The community space is brightly lit, decorated with artwork created by the members, and filled with big-screen TVs where they watch movies or play video games,” adds Prabhu. “It is a space where young people can learn, share ideas, receive services, hang out, and just be themselves.”