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Elkins Rotarians learn more about YouthBuild program

The Inter-Mountain photo by Eliana McCutcheon From left, students of YouthBuild North Central West Virginia Austin Durking, Colin Elswick and Eli Gripper, and alumnus of the program Sharell Harmon speak to the Elkins Rotary Club Monday.

ELKINS — On Monday, the Elkins Rotary Club learned about the YouthBuild North Central West Virginia program, which has served the local community for more than 20 years.

It is a chapter of the national nonprofit organization YouthBuild USA, which started in New York City in 1988. Today, there are more than 270 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands, engaging approximately 10,000 young adults each year.

The purpose of YouthBuild is to help participants develop a variety of skill sets that they can use to create a better future for themselves.

This non-profit program is sponsored by the Randolph County Housing Authority in Elkins. They provide students with vocational and educational training designed to give young adults the tools they need to get a good job and keep it.

“We start off with a lot of team building, introduction to classroom education, classroom communication,and leadership.” said Michelle Phares, program manager at YouthBuild North Central WV.

Since 1995, YouthBuild continues to help motivate participants, ranging ages of 16 to 24, to earn their high school equivalency certificate, learn marketable job skills, and develop important leadership skills, all while earning a paycheck.

Austin Durking, a Youth Build student, said, “I learned about YouthBuild through Facebook. I was looking for any program that helped high school drop outs. Before YouthBuild I did not have a very good attitude, but after I joined the program, it became much better and I became a harder worker.

“I am really proud because I got my GED in a month when I joined. I can now help others achieve what they wish to do. The workers and staff really do help us with everything that we need. This program gave me the opportunity for a second chance. In my future, I plan to either join the military, or pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering,” he said.

Colin Elswick, another YouthBuild student, said, “YouthBuild allows you to volunteer and by doing that, you develop leadership skills.”

YouthBuild student Eli Gripper said, “The students from YouthBuild come from different kinds of backgrounds. Some from broken homes, some suffer from homelessness, others have kids too early, and some have suffered with drug abuse. This program has helped all of us make our lives into something that can be better. It betters us as people. This is beneficial to us and it is beneficial to those who surround us. For me, this has been such a great program and I am so humbled to be in it.”

Sharell Harmon, a 2015 graduate of the program, shared her hopes and dreams for the current students and the future students of the YouthBuild program with Rotary members Monday.

“This program is a tremendous attribution to all of the young people across the country. I am here to represent the alumni that graduated this program here in Elkins,” she said. “Some have gone off to the military, they go into STEM careers, I myself, graduate of 2015, have served four years with AmeriCorps, I have attained my associates degree from Pierpont, and now I am in my junior year at WVU to earn my bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in political science.

“I am here to support the current students right now to preserve the next generation of citizens.”

For those who are interested in giving to the program or becoming a student, visit 300 Boundary Street in Elkins, call 304-637-9008, or email youthbuild@rchawv.org.

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