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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!”
STAY TUNED FOR YOUTHBUILD WORCESTER UPDATES ON “SCIENTISTS IN THE CLASSROOM”
AND “THE DESIGN CHARRETTE” FOR ONE KILBY STREET IN PARTNERSHIP WITH SAINT-GOBAIN/ CERTAINTEED!