By BROOKE BINNS
ELKINS, W.Va. — After several months of hard work and numerous, positive accomplishments, 14 students gathered with family and friends on Thursday as they were recognized as graduates of YouthBuild North Central.
YouthBuild Program Manager Michelle Phares said, “We asked you to trust us with no proof that you should or could — thank you for trusting us. And then we asked you to do the most difficult thing that can be asked of a person — we asked you to change and grow. As we all know, growth and change is not comfortable or graceful.”
Two students in the December 2016 graduating class shared testimonies that expressed their thanks for the YouthBuild program in addition to specific experiences that each of the students had during their time in the program.
Quoting a poem, Madison Scott said, “The struggle means, no matter how hard things are, you haven’t given up. The hustle is when you earn your accomplishments and wake up everyday proud of who you are.”
Each of the testimonies touched on the changes that students saw occurring in their lives as a result of life lessons they gained through the YouthBuild program.
“What I’ve done is who I am, but who I am is what I do now. I won’t let up or cease to fight, this time I plan on doing it right. What is right lies within me. I’m learning to appreciate the struggle for it would be hard to find the joy of accomplishment without it,” Scott said.
Taylor Zirkle offered a testimony that recognized the impact each YouthBuild staff member made on her life and how each of the individuals helped her to find motivation to do better.
“YouthBuild has helped me through so many mental and physical weaknesses,” Zirkle said.
In addition to Zirkle’s comments, many students thanked individual members of the YouthBuild staff for the impact that they made in their lives.
“It’s hard work, sweat, agony, tears and some cursing, but the result of that is amazing and life-changing,” Phares said.
The YouthBuild organization strives to give young adults the tools to get a good job and keep it. YouthBuild attempts to strengthen the educational backgrounds of young adults, teach marketable skills and entrepreneurship and instill leadership values that relate to home, work and community in order to assist young adults with becoming responsible members of the community.
Each of the graduates in the December 2016 completed an eight-month cycle, in which they did classwork and community service and construction work around the area.
Case Manager Jessica Gainer said, “By far, this group has expanded in our volunteer services. We’ve done more with this group than we have ever before.”
Since May of 2016, these 14 students completed 4,870 community service hours during their time with the YouthBuild program.
On behalf of Davis Health System, Foundation Director Mike Bell and Valerie Bright recognized students who volunteered many hours to the medical center.
“Including a couple of members of this class, six graduates of YouthBuild are now our co-workers,” Bell said.
In addition, Jennifer “JJ” Johnson, coordinator of Youth Health Service’s Home Ties Strengthening Families Center, praised students for their hard work and progress throughout their time in the YouthBuild program.
“I have to say, I am very proud of these guys — they worked very hard for me and have been very open and very fun,” Johnson said.
YouthBuild North Central is dedicated to providing an atmosphere that promotes growth, respect and dignity to all who they serve with love and appreciation.
The program offers young men and women the opportunity to earn money while gaining hands-on experience through building quality houses. The work YouthBuild participants complete also is reinforced with classroom instruction, job shadowing and personal guidance. Out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 are eligible to apply. The program typically lasts between six to 10 months.
“This is the end and it breaks my heart to say goodbye, but I will always recommend YouthBuild,” Zirkle said.
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