Melissa Louka

Melissa Louka

2016 Dedication Award - Peel

Nexus Youth Centre

Nominator Comments:

Melissa is compassionate, enthusiastic and kind-hearted – she is a true friend to all young people – helping to bring them shine brightly. Thank you for everything that you do, daily.

Melissa has an uncanny knack for being able to engage ‘difficult-to-engage’ youth.  Whether a young person is carrying a chip on their shoulder, or is too anxious to even say “Hi”, Melissa seems to be able to reach them and make them feel both welcome and safe. 

One day some two years ago, TB walked into the youth centre with his hood pulled up over his head, clutching his jacket.  When he sat down he pulled his backpack in front of him as if to create a barrier between himself and others.    

Before long, TB became a regular, seeking Melissa out—making her a confidante and support, something he’d been lacking in his life to that point.  Melissa had found a way to help TB feel safe and feel heard.   Since the time TB first walked into the youth centre, Melissa has spent time with him at a hospital ER in a time of crisis, and on a tour of McMaster University at a time of hope for a happy and productive future.  She’s spent countless hours with him crocheting, playing games—interacting with other youth, and of course talking and listening.  With her support, he eventually found the courage to access formal counselling, to get the help he needed to address is often debilitating anxiety and work towards achieving his goals. 

While this story illustrates Melissa’s impact on one particular youth, it’s but one story among many, which play out daily as she touches many youth in our community.

Melissa’s commitment to excellence sets her apart as a dedicated colleague and ally to the Nexus staff and youth she serves. She instills both optimism and possibility in everything she does. Compassionate, enthusiastic and kind-hearted, Melissa approaches her work with integrity, welcoming challenging/difficult activities, consistently ensuring success for every project. In fall 2015, Melissa supported volunteers to organize a Thanksgiving Dinner for youth who might otherwise miss celebrating with friends and family. Obstacles encountered during the planning only encouraged her to work harder. Rallying support from colleagues/friends/family, Melissa realized the youths’ desire for a true Thanksgiving, bringing together 60+ youth for a delicious feast in a community-fostering environment.

As a Youth-Engagement-Worker, Melissa personifies Nexus’ mission by creating opportunities that are inclusive/responsive to needs/voices of youth. As the adult-ally for Nexus’ Pro-ject Leadership Group (PLG), she supports youth assuming leadership roles, mentoring these volunteers in organizing community activities. Together, they developed NexTalks, a mental health event where youth shared their personal journey overcoming challenges. Under Melissa’s guidance, youth received support with logistics, each young speaker was mentored, and all participants were ensured a safe/enriching experience. Melissa is both the familiar face of NYC, and the heart of its influence on the lives of youth, often going above and beyond the call of duty.

To colleagues, Melissa projects as warm/caring/supportive with limitless generosity. She is first to offer a helping hand or listening ear. She greets you with a smile, and her humor keeps you laughing!  Melissa always has something to share and her enthusiasm is infectious. Melissa’s community-fostering nature is cherished by colleagues and youth alike.

Melissa also mentors placement students by sharing knowledge and inspiring growth with patience and unwavering commitment. Melissa gifts each student with Dr. Suess’ Oh the Places You Will Go – a thoughtful sentiment reflecting their personal journey, and symbolizing the wisdom/learning they experienced with this incredible mentor.

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