YouthBuild honors 11 graduates
ELKINS – Following months of hard work, 11 members of YouthBuild North Central attained their goal, gathering Thursday with their families and friends to celebrate their graduation.
The graduates completed an eight-month cycle, in which they did classwork, community service and construction work, including working on a three-unit apartment building for elderly disabled individuals in Valley Bend.
YouthBuild Program Manager Michelle Phares said she is exceptionally proud of this graduating class for all the hard work they put in, despite the elements.
“I will say that they have faced challenges that a lot of classes haven’t faced. They worked in January 2015 when it was sub-zero temperatures,” Phares said. “This class got here. When it was a state of emergency, some of them still showed up. We worked in below zero, we worked in blazing heat, they did it mostly without complaining. They did the construction portion of it, they do community service, they work at the Randolph County Humane Society, they walk dogs, they socialize cats, they hand out food at Catholic Charities, so they really get out there and they help the community. I am really proud of them.”
Phares also said the graduating students will be leaving the school with a full portfolio, ready to enter the work force.
“Some are studying to earn their TASC (formerly GED), they take the COMPASS (Placement) test, we do job readiness skills.” Phares said. “They leave here with a portfolio, they go and work with WorkForce, they do a professional resume, they apply for jobs through WorkForce and some of them do job shadowing so they have already been out on a job site.”
Phares said YouthBuild continues to assist these young adults even after they have graduated and become alumni, something she feels is very
“Not only do we directly serve in the community but these young people are going to be our neighbors so I think it’s really important that we have our doors open, that we help them get their TASC and we help them get work skills,” Phares said. “Not only that, we’re open to them, our doors are open, after they graduate the program. We have an alumni program. Anybody that is struggling with anything, they need a connection to a community service, they maybe did not get their TASC while they are here but they want to come up and study, we help them with all those things.”
YouthBuild Senior Education Director Loren Fortney echoed the sentiments of Phares during the graduation, saying he felt the graduating students had done exceptionally.
“The staff up here is the best I’ve ever seen at what they are doing. The crew, the students, this has been an exceptional group of students. They have done everything we wanted them to,” Fortney said. “We have several of them that went out and they already have jobs. They have been working, some of them for weeks, some of them a month, some of them three or four months. They are just ready to move on in life.”
Those graduating Thursday include Brooke Lester, Derick Lukenbill, Sharell Harmon, Dillon Thorne, Caleb Himes, Kevin Hipp, Darius Humphrey, Mercedes Hart, Doug Caprio, Dale Wine and David Cathell.
YouthBuild has served “at risk” youth in the community for 20 years and helps them obtain job skills that are important in finding and keeping employment.
“Youth Build actually has been in Elkins for 20 years and we serve students who are at risk of not attaining work skills and further education so we work with young people that are 16 to 24 (years old),” Phares said. “We have an education component, we have a construction component and we have a med prep component where they can get a certificate to go work in the medical field here in Elkins.
“We also have a lot of community partners. We have an AmeriCorps grant so these young people are able to, if they complete 450 hours of community service, they get a $1,500 reward from AmeriCorps. Some of these young people are earning that today, some are still working towards it. They have a year to fulfill that contract.”
YouthBuild is funded by the Department of Labor and also receives a grant through AmeriCorps.
YouthBuild is located at 300 Boundary St. in Elkins. Additional information is available by calling 304-637-9008 or online at www.rchawv.org/youthbuild.