2015 YOUTHBUILD WORCESTER – 1st Quarter Highlights

The New Year kicked off at YouthBuild Worcester with 42 students signing up for Mental Toughness in January 2015.  By the second Monday in February, 16 new students were selected to join this year’s group.  During Mental Toughness students had to write an essay on why they wanted to be in YouthBuild, take three math, reading and writing exams, learn the YouthBuild pledge, and show a willingness to be a part of the YouthBuild philosophy.   Students were required to meet high standards, like being on time each day at 9:00 am.  Failure to meet these standards meant losing an opportunity to attend the YouthBuild Program. This was a grueling process, and the students who made it into YouthBuild had to work hard to earn their spot.

YB student Nelson Cruz said, “YouthBuild Mental Toughness was hard, but it was also fun to meet new people, and learn more about the YouthBuild program.  Francis (YouthBuild Worcester Instructor) has high expectations of us, and respects us for who we are.  He encouraged me to come here every day, and I was very happy to find out that I made it into the YouthBuild Program.” Nelson has continued to have perfect attendance even after Mental Toughness, and is scheduled to take his High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) in May of 2015.


YB student Taisha Colon said, “Mental Toughness wasn’t the hardest part of getting into YouthBuild. It was all the testing! I had to take three math tests!  At that point, I knew that this program was for real, and that I was going to have to work really hard in order to do well. It was scary at first because I didn’t know if I could do it…if I could come every day and put in the effort needed to succeed at YouthBuild. But my Case Manager Doug told me how proud of me he was every day. It felt good to have a teacher care about me. I really hope I graduate in 10 months; that would be a really big deal! If you knew me you would understand that this is a really big deal in my life.” Representing TRA, Taisha recently spoke about her YouthBuild experience at a YWCA event.  She, too, is scheduled to take the HISET in May.

Following Mental Toughness, YouthBuilders earned their OSHA 10 licences, and are now working towards obtaining their Nationally Recognized PACT certificates in Construction.

Worksite Supervisor/ Trainer Jerry Siplas trains Savannah Polinski and Gabe Rodriguez

Gabriel Rodriguez

Rosemarie Ramos

This year, Worcester YouthBuild is partnering with Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC) to rehab a one-bedroom unit located at 898 Main Street which will be rented to a low-income individual and a sustainable gut rehab of a 14,000 square foot, fire-damaged apartment building located at 1 Kilby Street which will be transformed into 9 apartments for low-income families and veterans.


1 Kilby Street, Worcester, MA


Akiana Molina and Taisha Colon in front of 1 Kilby

898 Main Street, Worcester, MA












YouthBuild Worcester also hosted visits from Massachusetts State Senator/Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and Massachusetts State Representatives Mary Keefe and James O’Day at the YouthBuild classroom. The Legislators wanted to learn more about YouthBuild Worcester, share their support for the program, and speak with the students about the importance of voting and being a strong voice in their community.

State Rep. Mary Keefe

State Senator Harriette Chandler

State Rep. James O’Day

Along with members of the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition, YouthBuild Worcester students visited the Statehouse on March 19th, meeting with legislators to advocate for all the YouthBuild programs in Massachusetts.  Worcester YB student Marcus Diaz gave the following speech in the House Chambers.

Marcus Diaz

Hi, my name is Marcus Diaz.  I am a student at the Worcester YouthBuild Program.  I joined YouthBuild last year because I was unable to pass my MCAS test while attending the Worcester Public Schools.  YouthBuild gave me an opportunity to continue my education and to learn construction.  When I was in the Public Schools I had some great teachers who really cared about me, BUT I had many others who did not.  Many teachers gave up on me because I couldn’t read and write up to their standards.  They knew that I would never be able to pass the MCAS test.  In many ways, they just stopped teaching me.”

“YouthBuild is much different.  My first day at YouthBuild, I was welcomed with open arms.  They had me take a TABE test, and told me just to try my best and not to worry.  My test scores were very low.  I tested in at 3rd grade in both Math and Reading.  I was worried that YouthBuild would quit on me, just like everyone else had.  But they didn’t quit on me, they continued to challenge me. My instructor at YouthBuild, Francis, had me attend Math class twice a day, had me reading books, and writing essays.  I put in the work, and when YouthBuild re-tested me I tested at an 8th grade level in both math and reading!”

“YouthBuild believed in me, and now I believe in myself. It’s true that I have an IEP and difficulty learning.  But I am not defined by that, I am defined by how hard I work, and how I treat others! I am taking my HiSET exam in April – I might not pass.  But that’s OK, because I know that YouthBuild has my back; that YOU ALL have my back and that one day I will pass my HiSET.  I will go into the Union and I will accomplish all of my goals. We need more money for YouthBuild, so they can continue to help people like you and me!” 


Senator Harriette Chandler gave Worcester YB students a personal tour of the Senate Chambers.




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YouthBuild Philadelphia Tours CertainTeed Research and Development Center

YouthBuild Philly students took a tour of CertainTeed’s newest renovated research and development facility-the Malvern Innovation Center (MIC). The students started out the day with an introduction from Narendar Yeshwanth, Vice President of R&D for CertainTeed roofing. Narendar welcomed the students and presented an overview of the MIC, followed by a safety briefing before the tours.

Narendar Yeshwanth, VP of R&D-CertainTeed roofing welcoming students to the Malvern Innovation Center.

More than 20 YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School students saw a duct board demonstration, networked with CertainTeed researchers, and had a first-hand look at the labs that serve CertainTeed’s insulation, roofing and ceilings businesses.

Chuck Fisher, CertainTeed Analytical Laboratory Supervisor, conducting a lab tour.

RC Antal, Sales District Manager-CertainTeed Insulation conducting the duct board demonstration for students






Students were given the opportunity to network with employees during lunch. Employees answered student questions and shared their career journeys.

YouthBuild and Saint-Gobain team.

Please check back to buildingourfuturetogether.com for more updates with Saint-Gobain and Youthbuild!

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Saint-Gobain and YouthBuild Philly Partner Together for Thanksgiving Donations and a Day of Service

We braved the cold for another fun volunteer event with YouthBuild Philly and Saint-Gobain employees! However, this wasnt your typical volunteer day.

Collectively, Saint-Gobain and YouthBuild collected approximately 20 boxes of canned and boxed food donations to give to the Nicetown Community Development Corporation’s food cabinet. The students and Saint-Gobain employees not only sought to renovate two homes in the community, but also contribute to serving the community for Thanksgiving.

 Saint-Gobain employees worked side-by-side with YouthBuild Philly on the 2006 and 2008 Wingohocking Street project, in the Nicetown area of the city. Employees assisted students with  installing CertainTeed’s fencing and  framing of walls and windows. As team we are better together! We had a ton of fun, and we look forward to more success on Wingohocking Street.
Have a great holiday, everyone!
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My Letter to the YouthBuild Philly Graduates

As a Saint-Gobain employee, I can personally say that attending the YouthBuild Philly graduation ceremony put into perspective for me not only how our company contributes to the lives of these amazing preserving students, but also what these students contribute to us as employees and partners. 

Students and family gathering outside of the YouthBuild graduation at Zion Baptist church.

 This was my first YouthBuild graduation. I expected it to be like every other graduation ceremony I’ve attended, but boy was I wrong. There were laughs, tears, celebration, dancing, preaching and a lot of joy, support and pride in the room.

During the graduation ceremony a few students shared their individual stories about homelessness, death, young parenthood and the struggle to balance these life situations and education. Me being the big baby that I am, the tears started to flow. I was moved.

As a company we provide students with expertise, product and time, but nothing compares to what the students have provided us. These students have shown me that you can be whatever you want to be. I know, that sounds cliché, but it’s true.

I feel the most fulfilled at work when I interact with the students at YouthBuild. Whether it’s in Philly, Akron, Schenectady or Worcester, these students are fighters and share a common thread…tenacity. I thank the YouthBuild students for sharing their stories. You guys will change the world. You are changing the world.

Your life is a testament, no matter how big or small the story, you have the ability to affect change and to move others by just sharing.

Never forget the tough environment you’ve outgrown. It made you, but it didn’t break you. You are able to face the challenges ahead of you knowing that you overcame something that a lot of your future peers and colleagues wouldn’t last a day in. Stay focused and driven. Congratulations to all of the YouthBuild Philly graduates.


 - Felicia Melvin, Communications Specialist for Saint-Gobain 

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YouthBuild and Saint-Gobain’s FIRST Scientist in the Classroom session

On August 7, 2014, Saint-Gobain Corporation and Worcester YouthBuild launched a new pilot program called “Scientists in the Classroom”.  The program is designed to bring a new level of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training to YouthBuild students, as well as to provide Saint-Gobain scientists and engineers with the opportunity to share their expertise in a volunteer capacity within the classroom setting.

Chris Comeaux and Suresh Annavarapu, two scientists from Saint-Gobain’s Research & Development facility in Northboro, gave the first lesson which involved calculating an area and estimating the cost of a job.  Students were asked to quote a job for tiling the YouthBuild classroom. Exercises involved the following:

  • Step 1:  Calculate the area

–     Add some circle and rectangle areas that don’t need tiling

–     Measure the room

–     Choose a tile

–     How many boxes do you need?

–     How much will the tiles cost?


  • Step 2:  Estimate the entire job

–     How long will demo take?

–     How much prep time?

–     Any other materials needed?

–     How long to install the tile?

–     Any finish work?

–     Any other materials?

–     What is your total time?

–     What is your labor rate?

–     Is there a safety factor?

–     What could happen that could cause you to lose money on the job?

This topic involved a lot of math which is the least favorite subject for YouthBuild students.  As student Pedro Vazquez-Calderon expressed, “The scientists from Saint-Gobain made the lesson really fun and interesting.  I learned a lot from this lesson and it made me realize how important science and math really are to our construction project.”

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Saint-Gobain, YouthBuild Worcester and Matthew 25 Gather for an Employee Volunteer Day Celebration

A team of Saint-Gobain employees left their offices and picked up their hard hats for a day of service in support of YouthBuild Worcester and Matthew 25, on 3 Benefit Terrace Street

Saint-Gobain employees rolled up their sleeves and worked with students to install CertainTeed’s gypsum board and siding products, while providing their expertise to help renovate a previously dilapidated multifamily home in Worcester.

Enjoy the video below for a full recap of the event and share with us, in the comments below, your favorite moments!

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Saint-Gobain and YouthBuild Schenectady Complete First LEED Gold Home Renovation [Video]

Hey everyone! Check out the short video below for a look at the ribbon cutting celebration that took place on Emmett Street in Schenectady, NY. Saint-Gobain in partnership with YouthBuild Schenectady completed it’s first LEED Gold renovation project. Also, there is a first look at the next Saint-Gobain and YouthBuild Schenectady project on 323 Schenectady Street.

Be sure to check back here at buildingourfuturetogether.com for more updates on the Saint-Gobain partnership with YouthBuild!



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