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Fifty Young Adults Grab Second Chance and Graduate with Skills for New Lives

By Rhonda Miller | Published 15 Aug 2012 07:35pm | comments
YouthBuild graduates rehearse for the ceremony in Long Beach.

The YouthBuild program is recruiting dropouts who are ready for a second chance. There’s room in the program, as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, because the young people graduating last night are getting on with their new lives.

Like all of the 50 young adults at the YouthBuild graduation rehearsal in Long Beach yesterday, 18-year-old Shanae Armstead is closer to her fulfilling her dreams.

"I’m looking forward to next year going to college for nursing. I like helping people, taking care of them. I think that would be a good job for me, a good career."

Like many teenagers, Armstead just wasn’t looking ahead when she dropped out of Gulfport High School at 16.

"I made a decision to drop out, which I shouldn’t a did. I dropped out of school because I was really, really behind, like a lot."

YouthBuild Program Manager Neisha McElveen says each student has a case manager and a structure, and that helps them succeed.

"I’d say the motivating force is service and workforce development. We’re really trying to just prepare them to be better contributors to society. So when they graduate they’ve got the GED. They’ve learned service and leadership."

YouthBuild is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and AmeriCorps.  Each student gets $300 a month, they have to be on time, and take part in educational programs and community service. These graduates worked on several houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. 

Twenty-three- year-old Andrew Minyoung and his fiancé went through the program together.

"Actually, we worked side-by-side on most of the projects." "What did you work on?" "The most recent one, before we had to leave, we tore a house down and built it from the ground up."

His fiancé 21-year-old Natasha Parsels says construction is valuable experience.

“Right now I’m helping fix up a house my grandmother gave me. I’m helping fix the walls, the ceiling.."

As they move forward into the world, the graduates recite the YouthBuild pledge.  The program is holding an orientation Aug. 22 and members of the next class will be chosen Aug. 24.  

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YouthBuild graduates rehearse for the ceremony in Long Beach.


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