The Paterson Youth Council and the mayor of Paterson bestowed Khadija Moody with the Youth Recognition Award, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., on January 19, 2015, for her volunteer work, community service, academic accomplishments, and her involvement with Free Teens of Paterson along with other notable organizations.

The following is an essay she wrote regarding her experiences with Free Teens:

“What I’ve Learned from Free Teens”

Khadijah Moody, 14, 9th grader at Eastside HS

Why do I choose to be a Free Teen? Well, why not? Free Teens is a network of support that I can always rely on. They are always there if I ever need to talk. I can basically call them my second family.

Free Teens has frequent meetings that help to mentor me in the right direction and avoid negative crowds and decision making. Secondly, Free Teens informs me of the consequences that I will be penalized by if I make the wrong decisions.

Free Teens helps educate teens about how to prevent making bad decisions or to avoid making them again. Being able to resist the temptation of sex, drugs, and negative thinking is not as easy for me as I make it look. This has been years in the making. I’ve been in Free Teens since I was 12, so that’s 2 years of training on making the right decisions.

Being in Free Teens has exposed me to things I would have never been exposed to if not for Free Teens. I learned that if you make the right choices as a teenager you won’t regret your choices as an adult. You’ll be able to look back at Free Teens and know that they were the reason you refrained from sex and drugs, and you are a better person because of its teachings. Not only are you a better person, but a happy person. You can be happy knowing that you waited to have sex until marriage and that you never did drugs and you always made good decisions. Not only does this program help me abstain from sex, drugs and negative thinking, but this program also offers community service and the opportunity to meet new friends wit the same mindset as you. This is why I chose Free Teens and I strongly recommend it to you.

Esaias Tauates, 13, PS25

I came to Free Teens because I’m interested in making better relationships, to be more social with people, to learn about things to do and not to in life such as drugs and alcohol.