An innovative program is preparing students for construction jobs and building life skills. Youth Build gives young adults their high school GED and equips them with construction skills for the job market.
Rorey Shepherd is ready to build a home and also start rebuilding his life. The 24 year old Shepherd will graduate from Youth Build after seven months of training. He is one of 15 students completing the program.
“I was throwing my life away and making the wrong choices,” said Shepherd of his life before Youth Build. “This was my last chance to get my life together.”
Besides teaching him life skills and construction skills, the program and its counselors also helped him get through personal issues, Shepherd said. “It’s been a complete turnaround,” said Shepherd, who said he wants to eventually pursue a career in construction management.
Those lessons began in a foreclosed and abandoned old frame house on Ford Avenue NE, where the Youth Build students stripped the interior down to the studs in preparation for a remodeling job.
For Jameilla Ross, it meant spending cold, wintry days stripping the kitchen of the old house of its cabinets, plumbing, plaster and insulation.
Whether that dirty work leads to a career in construction is not clear, said Ross. “I will use it to my advantage if something breaks in my house,” she said.
Another student, Whitney Penn, shuddered as she recalls sawing pipes out of the basement of the old house. Penn said she now is hoping to pursue a career in construction administration and ultimately, politics.
The house, which was acquired from the Kent County Land Bank, is being rebuilt for Urban Transformation Ministries and its Man Up program, said Ryan Nettesheim, youth services department supervisor at Bethany Christian Services, where the Youth Build program is based.