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Meet Malika Braz, a recent intern at NLCA who just finished her graduate studies at LSU! Since joining NLCA earlier this year, Malika has served with the behavioral case management team and the after school program. She started this program from scratch, creating a comprehensive curriculum to help kids manage their emotions and behavioral issues. After graduating with her Master of Social Work (MSW), she also became a camp counselor for the New Life Summer Camp Program, continuing to support and engage with the students.

Malika admits that her internship has been filled with both challenging and rewarding moments. “I would cry because I was extremely sensitive to the circumstances each family or individual in the community is grappling with,” she recalls. She fondly remembers the kids in the program, describing them as characters who brought something new every day. “Each child had their own unique qualities, so every day brought different circumstances, which was challenging yet inspiring.”

One of Malika’s key contributions was implementing a 15-minute “Let’s Talk About It” program,  providing one-on-one sessions for kids to discuss anything troubling them. One of her favorite activities was circle time, where students shared their “roses and thorns” using dry-erase boards and a feelings chart. Circle time also consisted of therapy aid interactives, social-emotional learning (SEL) worksheets, coloring, and deep breathing exercises. This helped them express their emotions in a practical way.

Engaging parents was another important part of Malika’s work. She encouraged them to get involved in the after school program and summer camp. Parents often participated during pickup times, sometimes sitting at the table to talk and connect, creating a supportive community environment.

Looking to the future, Malika feels excited about the many opportunities within social work. Initially interested in homelessness, her experience at NLCA has drawn her towards working with kids and therapy. She appreciates the wide range of experiences she has gained and is eager to continue her journey in this field.

Malika emphasizes the importance of mental health, encouraging everyone to view it positively and use safe spaces to express their feelings. “Mental health matters,” says Malika. “Everyone should be open to it and look at mental health as a positive rather than something to fear. There are safe spaces to let feelings out.” Her time at NLCA has strengthened her belief in the importance of mental health support and the need for accessible resources. We are proud to have been a part of her story and look forward to seeing the remarkable contributions she will continue to make in our city.