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Not for Profit: YouthBuild

June 7, 2009 — Since 2003, young people age 16 to 24 from public housing have been getting their lives on track and getting off the street with the YouthBuild U.S. Virgin Islands program.
"These young people are in the best place in this program," says Irma Hodge, deputy director of the V.I. Housing Authority. "The street isn't the best place for them to be."
The territory-wide program targets unemployed and unskilled dropouts, giving them the opportunity to earn a general equivalency diploma (GED), acquire job skills and learn construction trades through classroom and on-site construction training.
"With this program we help young people to move forward in life productively and contribute to the community," says Carla Joseph, YouthBuild program manager. Joseph says they encourage and help participants who primarily reside in public housing, offering them academic counseling and training in plumbing, electrical, masonry, carpentry skills and basic hand tools safety.
The program, which can take up to 18 months to complete, begins with the participants getting their GED. Michael Vaught, a GED instructor, says a lot of the young people in the program quit school in the eighth or ninth grade. The students spend three hours a day learning a trade and spend the afternoon on academics.
Jaslene Williams, assistant YouthBuild program manager on St. Croix, says some aspire to move on to college not just the building trades.
"I want to go on to college and become a pediatrician," says Shenequa Buffong, an 18-year-old dropout enrolled in the program. She will be eligible to get assistance in SAT preparation, financial aid and college admissions processes.
The students recently completed a "Mental Toughness" workshop under the guidance of V.I. National Guard members and St. Croix Rescue workers, learning physical stamina skills, teamwork, trust, respect, CPR and basic first aid.
"The kids did very well, all working together towards a common goal using the resources we gave them to better themselves," says Aretha Ventura, V.I. Air Force National Guard, at a recent rite-of-passage ceremony for seven students.
An on-site counselor addresses behavioral and personal issues, such as anger management and achieving goals. The participants learn sound work habits and time-management skills. And most importantly, participants get placed in jobs.
Ara Lockhart, assistant commissioner of Labor, says DOL works closely with YouthBuild to prepare and ultimately place youth in the workplace.
"There is stimulus aid for 19-to-24-year-olds, and we have identified construction trades and skills in high demand," Lockhart says. "These young people are off on the right pathways to make money. It is in their hands, and they have the power to make it work."
Trevor Ettienne, a 17-year-old dropout, says he will use the skills to improve his life as an electrician or mason.
"I dropped out and had nothing to do," Ettienne says. "Now I have something I want to do."
Nolen Vasquez, 21, dropped out in the eleventh grade and also realized he needed something to do.
"I need to do something with my life — not just be a nothing," Vasquez says. "I want to be somebody."
YouthBuild began in 1978 with a question, when Dorothy Stoneman, now president of YouthBuild USA, asked East Harlem teenagers what they would do to improve their community.
"We’d rebuild the houses. We’d take empty buildings back from the drug dealers and eliminate crime,” they replied. That became the Youth Action Program, and the program continued to grow, first throughout New York City, then across the country with the founding of YouthBuild USA in 1990. The program came to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2003.
The program, under the V.I. Housing Authority, is federally funded, with classes located at Oswald Housing Community on St. Thomas and the John F. Kennedy Housing Community on St. Croix. The program has the capacity to enroll up to 25 young people per session. Local partners in the program are the Departments of Human Services, Education and Labor, UVI and V.I. Habitat for Humanity. For more information, call 713-9990 on St. Croix and 714-2102 on St. Thomas.
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June 7, 2009 -- Since 2003, young people age 16 to 24 from public housing have been getting their lives on track and getting off the street with the YouthBuild U.S. Virgin Islands program.
"These young people are in the best place in this program," says Irma Hodge, deputy director of the V.I. Housing Authority. "The street isn't the best place for them to be."
The territory-wide program targets unemployed and unskilled dropouts, giving them the opportunity to earn a general equivalency diploma (GED), acquire job skills and learn construction trades through classroom and on-site construction training.
"With this program we help young people to move forward in life productively and contribute to the community," says Carla Joseph, YouthBuild program manager. Joseph says they encourage and help participants who primarily reside in public housing, offering them academic counseling and training in plumbing, electrical, masonry, carpentry skills and basic hand tools safety.
The program, which can take up to 18 months to complete, begins with the participants getting their GED. Michael Vaught, a GED instructor, says a lot of the young people in the program quit school in the eighth or ninth grade. The students spend three hours a day learning a trade and spend the afternoon on academics.
Jaslene Williams, assistant YouthBuild program manager on St. Croix, says some aspire to move on to college not just the building trades.
"I want to go on to college and become a pediatrician," says Shenequa Buffong, an 18-year-old dropout enrolled in the program. She will be eligible to get assistance in SAT preparation, financial aid and college admissions processes.
The students recently completed a "Mental Toughness" workshop under the guidance of V.I. National Guard members and St. Croix Rescue workers, learning physical stamina skills, teamwork, trust, respect, CPR and basic first aid.
"The kids did very well, all working together towards a common goal using the resources we gave them to better themselves," says Aretha Ventura, V.I. Air Force National Guard, at a recent rite-of-passage ceremony for seven students.
An on-site counselor addresses behavioral and personal issues, such as anger management and achieving goals. The participants learn sound work habits and time-management skills. And most importantly, participants get placed in jobs.
Ara Lockhart, assistant commissioner of Labor, says DOL works closely with YouthBuild to prepare and ultimately place youth in the workplace.
"There is stimulus aid for 19-to-24-year-olds, and we have identified construction trades and skills in high demand," Lockhart says. "These young people are off on the right pathways to make money. It is in their hands, and they have the power to make it work."
Trevor Ettienne, a 17-year-old dropout, says he will use the skills to improve his life as an electrician or mason.
"I dropped out and had nothing to do," Ettienne says. "Now I have something I want to do."
Nolen Vasquez, 21, dropped out in the eleventh grade and also realized he needed something to do.
"I need to do something with my life -- not just be a nothing," Vasquez says. "I want to be somebody."
YouthBuild began in 1978 with a question, when Dorothy Stoneman, now president of YouthBuild USA, asked East Harlem teenagers what they would do to improve their community.
"We’d rebuild the houses. We’d take empty buildings back from the drug dealers and eliminate crime,” they replied. That became the Youth Action Program, and the program continued to grow, first throughout New York City, then across the country with the founding of YouthBuild USA in 1990. The program came to the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2003.
The program, under the V.I. Housing Authority, is federally funded, with classes located at Oswald Housing Community on St. Thomas and the John F. Kennedy Housing Community on St. Croix. The program has the capacity to enroll up to 25 young people per session. Local partners in the program are the Departments of Human Services, Education and Labor, UVI and V.I. Habitat for Humanity. For more information, call 713-9990 on St. Croix and 714-2102 on St. Thomas.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.