YouthBuild grads proud of service, completing program

ELKINS – Following months of training, working, studying and volunteering their time, nine members of YouthBuild North Central attained their goal, gathering Friday with their families and friends to celebrate their graduation.

YouthBuild North Central Director Jason Vandevander said the group had plenty to be proud of Friday. The graduates have helped throughout the community, aiding community organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Randolph County recycling program and the Randolph County Humane Society.

“We believe these individuals are our greatest resource to building a better future for the community,” Vandevander said. “The graduates’ valuable assistance is a core value that is the base of the YouthBuild philosophy.”

Vandevander said this crew also worked on several construction projects, including major rehabilitation work on a four-unit low income apartment complex, and began construction on a single-family dwelling. As a group, the graduates had a total of 3,423 volunteer hours.

Karen Jacobson, executive director of the Randolph County Housing Authority, said YouthBuild, like her organization, is about stepping stones.

“YouthBuild offers a little assistance just when it’s needed,” Jacobson said. “YouthBuild adds to the community it serves – students learn construction skills while building a single family dwelling to help those in the community.”

Jacobson said when Josie Cuda wrote the original grant to begin YouthBuild in the area, she used the phrase “plausible miracle.”

“We must never be afraid to make a reach for something that could be,” Jacobson said.

Graduate Cody Pudder said he was thankful for the YouthBuild program.

“I earned many certifications and am working toward my GED,” Pudder said. “I joined YouthBuild because I wanted to make a career for myself. Now I have a job waiting for me. The owner held the job for me for three weeks until I could graduate and start working.”

Randolph County Housing Authority Board member Ray Godwin said YouthBuild is a great program.

“YouthBuild is an awesome program,” Godwin said. “It empowers people to move positively forward on the next phase of their lives. I am a big fan.”

Graduate Christian Hawkins spoke to those gathered for the ceremony.

“YouthBuild is a doorway for opportunity,” Hawkins said. “I grabbed ahold of it. We have all come here to better ourselves.”

Those celebrating graduation Friday were Mike Cashman, Salena Cussins, Hawkins, Andrea Hinchman, Brittany Hinchman, Jacob Nicholson, Pudder, Lauren Scott and Patrick Turner.

The mission of YouthBuild is to integrate learning in an innovative manner. There are two components: the practical and the academic. Crew members are given the necessary resources and tools to study for their GED. They are also given real world experience with on-the-job training and receive practical training within the field of carpentry. Youthbuild helps young men and women seek and find their true potential for success.

YouthBuild is located at 300 Boundary St. in Elkins. Additional information is available by calling 304-637-9008 or online at