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State funding builds up Youthbuild

November 30, 2012
By Casey Houser - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

Officials at the Elkins Youthbuild facility are once again accepting applications for the program, after a temporary loss of funding brought to the program to a standstill.

Youthbuild Director Gene Ochsendorf said a grant became available in September that allowed classes to resume for the coming year.

"The main thing that I want to get out there is that we are open," Ochsendorf said.

He said the grant, applied for this summer, was worth over $2 million. The competitive, two-year grant was made available through the U.S. Department of Labor and will be used for all facility operations.

Youthbuild accepts people ages 16 to 24 who live in Randolph, Barbour or Tucker County and who are not enrolled in school. Program participants have the opportunity to build houses and take classes, Ochsendorf said.

Paper or electronic applications can be submitted by interested parties. After they are reviewed, candidates may be interviewed and may take the Test of Adult Basic Education.

The TABE covers reading and arithmetic, and it is used to determine the educational level of each applicant.

Normally, Youthbuild doesn't accept anyone into the program who is below a 6th grade level, Ochsendorf said.

He also said background checks are run on each applicant.

Once candidates are accepted, they will begin taking classes and working on construction projects.

Loren Fortney, principal of Youthbuild, said students alternate one week of classes with one week of working in the field.

In the classroom, he said he provides GED instruction, which includes working through books that cover reading, writing, science, math and social studies.

On average, Fortney said it takes six months to two years to be ready to take the GED.

Once students pass the test, they are eligible for SAT and ACT prep and pre-apprenticeship training, he said.

Randy Cunningham, Youthbuild construction supervisor, spoke about the skills that are learned in construction.

He said that students often build low-income housing and have worked with schools.

Students learn generalized skills such as how to be on time and be prepared. They also learn more specific skills like installing framing, siding, roofing, electronics and plumbing.

Cunningham said he helps kids to develop their self-determination.

"Some kids don't know they can do stuff on their own," he said.

The fall program is under way and the spring program will start in mid-May.

"We have a few slots left open," said Fortney, who encouraged anyone interested to apply.

Applications for the program are available at

Ochsendorf can be reached at 304-637-9008. Youthbuild also has a Facebook page, titled Youthbuild North Central.



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