She’s just 17 but already Elisan­gela Silva is a master in the kitchen, espe­cially when it comes to preparing the tra­di­tional Cape Verdean dishes she’s been making with her mother at their Dorch­ester home since she was 8 years old.

Now, with the help of a recent North­eastern grad­uate, the promising high-​​school junior is sharing her mas­terful cooking skills with her peers, teaching a weekly cooking class at the Catholic Char­i­ties Teen Center at St. Peter’s in Boston.

Every Wednesday after­noon, Silva and Sarah Lamm, SSH ’12, teach a group of high schoolers — all of whom play a part in prep, cooking and cleanup — to cook meals that are tasty, afford­able and, above all, healthy.

I was thinking about my family’s health first, then I started thinking about other kids at St. Peter’s.  They can do this, make a healthy dinner for their family,” Silva said.

Lamm wound up at St. Peter’s via Nicaragua, where last summer she led a group of teens from Boston and New York through a group called Global Poten­tial, an orga­ni­za­tion that aims to empower indi­vid­uals and com­mu­ni­ties through edu­ca­tion, inter­na­tional ser­vice work and global cul­tural exchange. Through that orga­ni­za­tion, Lamm worked with Silva and other teens in the field back at home, when stu­dents based at St. Peter’s planned and orches­trated ser­vice projects based on what they learned abroad.

Lamm con­tinued working at St. Peter’s in the fall, through a service-​​learning class taught by Gia Bar­boza, assis­tant pro­fessor of African-​​American studies and health at North­eastern. She was able to work more closely with Silva, and armed with a modest sum of grant money and out­sized ambi­tion, the two started working on a plan that would empower Silva and her peers to pre­pare and cook tasty, healthy and inex­pen­sive meals.

Now these stu­dents are able to make these meals on their own, and every Wednesday they’re feeding 200 people at the center,” Lamm said.

The first few weeks of meals focused on Cape Verdean sta­ples like creole chicken (many of the teens at St. Peter’s hail from the African island nation, a large number of whom have set­tled in and around the Bow­doin Street area of Boston’s Dorch­ester neigh­bor­hood). Later meals were more tra­di­tional Amer­ican offer­ings, like lasagna, pizza and chicken.

She’s been cooking these dishes more than half her life and she’s really made this project her own,” Lamm said of her mentee. “I’ve really seen Elisan­gela become a leader here, starting to del­e­gate to make sure every­thing gets done.”

The teen center, run by Catholic Char­i­ties and sup­ported by a mul­ti­tude of orga­ni­za­tions in and around Boston, pro­vides a safe haven every after­noon for Boston middle– and high-​​school stu­dents — many of them of Cape Verdean descent — com­plete with aca­d­emic resources, col­lege coun­seling, health and well­ness classes, com­pet­i­tive sports and other active opportunities.

Stu­dents in service-​​learning classes at North­eastern con­duct thou­sands of hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice — nearly 13,000 hours in this past semester — in part­ner­ship with dozens of orga­ni­za­tions like St. Peter’s. Pro­fes­sors like Bar­boza tailor their cur­ricula so that stu­dent work involves active engage­ment with the community.

A lot of these teens aren’t having their needs met: They’re not always eating well, they’re not always safe,” said Bar­boza, who is also a fac­ulty fellow at Northeastern’s Insti­tute on Urban Health Research. “Having a stable place in the com­mu­nity can do so much to help these kids.”