YouthBuild graduates honored

Photo courtesy of Sharelle Harman Hayley Fowler, left, one of eight new graduates of the YouthBuild North Central program, receives her diploma and shakes hands with Thomas Akers of YouthBuild, who served as the emcee for the graduation ceremony Thursday.

ELKINS — YouthBuild North Central hosted a graduation ceremony for the class of November 2019 in the Phil Gainer Community Center Thursday.

Taking part in the graduation ceremony were Dakota Boggs, Austin Durking, Collin Elswick, Hayley Fowler, Mercedes Isenhart, Jonathan Pennington, Brandon Seabolt and Zachary Warren. Eddie “Eli” Gripper and Damon Tacy were also honored for graduating from the program, but were unable to attend the ceremony.

“Many thanks to the hands-on, never-give-up, tough as nails, most loving and empathetic team that powers YouthBuild,” said Michelle Phares, YouthBuild program manager, during the graduation ceremony. “Thank you for giving 110% every day that you walk in our doors to these young people (…) you guys are amazing human beings.”

Turning her attention to the graduates, Phares said, “Most importantly, in this room today, is this group of warriors to my left and my right. They truly are. They face challenges head on every day and never give up.”

The YouthBuild program strives to give young adults the tools to get a good job and keep it. YouthBuild attempts to strengthen the educational backgrounds of young adults, teach marketable skills and entrepreneurship and instill leadership values that relate to home, work and community in order to assist young adults with becoming responsible members of the community. The Randolph County Housing Authority has sponsored YouthBuild for more than 20 years.

The Inter-Mountain photo by Haley Gordon Karen Jacobsen, executive director of the Randolph County Housing Authority, spoke to YouthBuild North Central graduates at a graduation ceremony Thursday.

“This is one of my favorite things to do in my job every year, is to come to YouthBuild graduations,” Karen Jacobsen, executive director of the Randolph County Housing Authority, said during the ceremony. “I’m always really thrilled to be here and to see you and to see how far you all have come.”

“These YouthBuild crews carry out the Housing Authority mission every day, in the hundreds of hours of community service every month through the months that they serve,” said Jacobsen.

She commended the graduates on the many projects they’ve worked on, including work at Cass Scenic Railroad’s state park, the Homestead school renovation, digitizing the Elkins-Randolph County Library and helping to clean up after heavy rainfall in July.

Elkins Mayor Van Broughton praised the YouthBuild graduates for working day after day to improve our community and putting in nearly 2,000 hours of work before turning the microphone over to Rhett Dusenbury, district representative of Congressman Alex Mooney, R-2nd District.

Mooney sent a letter for Dusenbury to present to the graduates.

“You have shown that the word ‘can’t’ doesn’t apply to you,” he said. “You can do anything you want. You’ve already shown it by going through this course, any other personal improvement you care to do, you will succeed if you just apply yourselves like you all did on this program right here.”

The students were recognized and given their diplomas, while their various accomplishments and certifications were read aloud. Afterward, a few of the graduates spoke to thank their instructors, families, and support systems for helping them throughout the YouthBuild program.

Other speakers at the event included Jennifer “JJ” Johnson, the Youth Health Service Home Times Strengthening Families Center family service coordinator, and Thomas Akers of YouthBuild, who served as the emcee for the event.


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