I first met Yocasta Jimenez, LMSW (better known in the community as Yogi or Ms. Yogi) when she put together a Small Business Pop-Up Shop in The Galleria Mall to help promote small Black and Brown businesses for Black History Month. I invited her on our radio show, People Before Politics to discuss it and immediately knew I wanted her to be one of the Westchester Women, we would spotlight in our Women’s Month Issue.
Ms. Yogi is also known as The Hip Hop Therapist. She is the President and Founder of Teens Under Construction, Inc. She believes in incorporating Hip-Hop culture into Teens Under Construction, Inc. (TUC) as a way to unite our community through cultural communication which helps provide youth engagement and educational growth.
TUC is a mentoring and counseling organization, servicing at-risk youth ages 15 – 24. Ms. Yogi has a passion for the work she does. She loves working with young people and educating people about effective ways to engage youth in order to provide them the ability to obtain success.
As a “teen mom” and “high-school dropout” she personally knows the difficulties associated with being an “at-risk youth.” Her experience has afforded her the ability to reach the youth in unique ways by incorporating music and other urban tools.
“My love for the work and the teens has demonstrated success as we currently have over 20 clients in different colleges and trade programs,” Ms.Yogi shared with Black Westchester. “Within the next 2 years, we hope to expand our service to an independent living program where we will have the ability to house displaced youth and/or youth that have aged out of care in addition to providing our initial services.”
After the first 2 years, she hopes to maintain a position of executive director and continue to have an influence on the culture of the business. It is extremely important to her that the youth continue to be the organization’s focus and that it never loses a culture of acceptance, understanding, and nurturing.
“I have chosen this because I see the needs in many communities,” she continued. “I have personal experiences that have led me to want to improve the quality of life of others. Through my experience as a licensed social worker I have had the ability to complete research that has proven that despite the trauma and other negative life-changing factors, an individual can prove to be successful after encountering nurturing, loving of supportive people in their life. It could have been a teacher, counselor, friend, mate, or any other form of support and empathy. At TUC we will serve as that person and place of nurture and support.
Teens Under Constructions’ achievement is to help restore humanity by providing today’s youth the necessary tools to build a better tomorrow. She started TUC in 2014 but the idea has been brewing since she was 13 after a stint in juvenile detention where they were treated very poorly. Yocasta is a survival and is proof you do not have to allow your past to define you. She has been broke but never broken, she’s been homeless and incarcerated. I was a fighter. She had a lot of anger and her family frequently frowned on her behavior and she was often left out of family events. She was a teen mom, a high school drop out but that’s is not the end of her story, she is also a Fordham Graduate. Now she uses her experiences to reach the youth, letting them know she understands where they are because she has been there. She got a second chance to make something of herself and now she pays it forward, dedicating her life to at-risk youth who many have given up on, letting them know they are not alone, she is there for them. TUC has allowed her and others to offer various programs, music production, CPR, a Drop-in center where food and workshops were provided, fashion/shopping days, bubble soccer at Gardella Day, the TRUTH Program (Teens Reconstructing Under True Hip Hop) where we provided social-emotional learning to youth in group homes and incarcerated.
“I Got my GED enrolled in Westchester Community College and drop out like 4 times. The 4th time was a charm, I figured things out made it Fordham and I graduated top of my class. Now I am an LMSW. Through my struggles, I triumphed and now I’m here to help our youth do the same,” she shares with Black Westchester.
She also offers a 6 Week Hip-Hop Therapy Curriculum and how it can be implemented into other’s institutions and organizations. TUC offers Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Global Cultural Communication. SEL is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success. People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. From effective problem-solving to self-discipline, from impulse control to emotion management and more, SEL provides a foundation for positive, long-term effects on teens and young adults.
Global Cultural Communication: Hip-Hop is a global cultural communication style including the pillars of music, art, and dance. Slam poetry, beatbox, and beat making have become worldwide ways young people and adults use to express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, values, knowledge, and wisdom in urban, rural, suburban, and other environments. Hip-Hop music has served as a powerful voice and form of expression for young black audiences and has evolved into a culture with its own language, style of dress, and mindset.
“We pride ourselves on incorporating Hip-Hop culture into our organization to engage youth and reinforce youth development and empowerment,” Yogi shared.
She could have easily allowed her past as an excuse, but instead, she uses her combined experiences to inspire the youth. She is truly an unsung shero. If you didn’t know now you know. Black Westchester salutes and proudly features Yocasta Jimenez aka Mrs. Yogi The Hip Hop Therapist. If you didn’t know now you know.
This is her-story!
[Editor’s Note: This originally appeared in the March 15, 2021 Women’s Month Issue of Black Westchester Newspaper.]