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Participants praise YouthBuild during stop at Elkins Rotary

ELKINS – Two YouthBuild participants talked about how the program has positively affected their lives during Monday’s Elkins Rotary Club meeting.

Jessica Collins said she discovered the YouthBuild program after the stresses of public school started to take a toll on her mental health.

“Before I started (YouthBuild), I was in Elkins High School. I had to drop out because my anxiety got too bad. I couldn’t focus, every time I go to school I have panic attacks,” Collins said.

“What YouthBuild is about, we build low income houses. They help us get our GED or job and work skills and we do a lot of community service,” she continued. “They really do change a lot of kids’ lives around. My older brother is in there, he joined recently and he’s changed a lot in a short amount of time.”

Collins plans to use the skills she developed in YouthBuild by going to college and furthering her education.

“What I’m planning to do after YouthBuild is going to Pierpont (Community and Technical College) where I can be a vet tech,” Collins said.

The second participant, Kyrsten Himes, outlined how she got involved in the YouthBuild program.

“When I was in my senior year of high school, I actually ended up graduating but I also got married so it made college basically impossible.”

“We were moving out, we were living on our own,” Himes said. “We had to make it on my wages at Subway and eventually I worked two jobs. (My husband) was working at YouthBuild while I was working the other two jobs. We were making it work. I paid $900 a month at the house I was living in.”

Himes said the YouthBuild program allowed her to better herself and her employment situation.

“When I got the opportunity to work at YouthBuild after (her husband) had graduated, they really did change my life,” Himes said. “I couldn’t afford to go to college, I couldn’t afford to get myself better. I would have ended up working fast food the rest of my life.”

Himes is preparing to join the med-tech program through YouthBuild and work toward becoming a nurse.

“YouthBuild has helped me get myself to a place where I could do all these things. I got accepted to college, I had a good GPA, I went to high school, I worked hard. I worked two jobs and went to high school, I got married before I even graduated,” Himes said. “So, it took a long time for me to get to the place where I was able to do these things and they are helping me get to a place where I need to be to straighten out my life.”

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. In Elkins, YouthBuild has served nearly 800 youth.

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.

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