ELKINS – The students and staff of YouthBuild North Central celebrated National YouthBuild Day Thursday with a ribbon cutting and rededication ceremony, joined by elected officials, Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce members and local residents.

Jason Vandevender, director of YouthBuild North Central, said Thursday marked the first National YouthBuild Day.

“North Central YouthBuild was established in 1995, serving Randolph, Barbour and Tucker counties,” Vandevender said. “There are 263 YouthBuild programs across the United States.”

Vandevender said the mission of YouthBuild is to celebrate, elevate and advocate. He said the program is currently accepting new students.

Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said YouthBuild is an amazing program.

“I wish it was two times as big as it is,” Campbell said. “It really helps students to connect with their abilities, and helps them learn needed skills to obtain a good job.”

Campbell said the staff of YouthBuild is nothing but positive.

“The students I have spoken with feel the program is a godsend,” Campbell said. “Everyone in the community should come by and see the program. Just reading about the program doesn’t give a picture of the huge amount of learning and work that goes on.”

Campbell said Elkins and the surrounding counties are fortunate to have a YouthBuild program in the area.

“Residents should see the results of their tax dollars through this program,” Campbell said. “Students learn skills that will last them a lifetime – you simply cannot put a pricetag on this type of learning.”

Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said work completed by YouthBuild students has benefitted the city.

“Students have helped in our park system with expanding and helping us grow,” Broughton said. “They helped with picnic tables, pavilions, building bathrooms and making repairs. We are grateful for their assistance.”

Broughton said the activities help the student learn a trade and prepare them for the local work force.

“My goal is to have a few of them in our city work force when they finish training,” Broughton said.

YouthBuild strives to help at-risk youth age 16 to 24 by guiding them to earn their GED and learn valuable job skills. Students spend six to nine months in the program, with about half of that time in the classroom and half in the field.

YouthBuild participant Mike Cashman, of Belington, said he joined the program last year.

“I am not particularly good at doing my schoolwork fast,” Cashman said. “I joined YouthBuild to get my GED and to gain job experience while earning a small paycheck. I also enjoy helping in the community.”

Cashman said he will take the test to earn his GED at the next opportunity.

Also during Thursday’s ceremony, Ben Shaffer of the Elkins Kiwanis Club presented YouthBuild North Central with a check for $2,000.

“We appreciate what you have done with the students,” Shaffer said. “Staff and students work hard and it is critical students get classroom time. We understand you need training manuals, so we are providing you with the money to get a full library of these needed materials.”

Additional information is available by calling 304-637-9008.