My name is Katherine Castillo and I am a 25 year old, proud Dominican, Transgender woman. On November 8, 2008 I emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States for a better future. I went from Middle School to High School struggling with my identity. I did not have the freedom to be myself or to express my feelings. At the time, I did not know how to go about it because I was very young, so I ended up dropping out of High School and started living as a usual teenager would; I started experimenting with going out, drinking and just living “the best life” as I used to call it, until, my best friend Shantel Alix, introduced me to YouthBuild North Shore CDC. There is where I graduated and where “my better life” really began. When I first joined YouthBuild I was having doubts and trying to figure out if the program was for me. I began making friends and getting closer with the staff members and that is where my actually liking the program began.
The program helped me so much during the journey of my path through YouthBuild. I was provided the opportunity to serve my community through community service which I never thought I would enjoy doing, and I also got to do internships and learning about office/clerical work which helped me to get a clearer vision of my path. After I completed the program course, and gained my HiSet Equivalency Diploma, I applied for the position of “Alumni Engagement Coordinator” at the same program I graduated from. I was trying so hard to get this position and it seemed weird at the time, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to succeed but my desire to give back to this program that helped me so much was bigger than my insecurities and I was hired for the position. Here I can be myself, doing great things for others. I see myself as an example for those who don’t believe in themselves, and what you can achieve, if you just put the work into it.
My name is Kimberly Dalton. I am a mother of four amazingly, awesome children, ages, 6,8,15, & 19. I first began my journey with Youth Build in 2006, when I was twenty-one years old. During that time, I wasn’t sure about anything in my life, other than I knew I wanted change. I was a single mother of two small children, living on my own, and struggling to make ends meet. I had no education, no job experience, and most importantly, no support.
Through the years I have been faced with many hardships. At the age of nine, I lost my grandfather who was dear to my heart. For many years, he and my grandmother lived in the home directly next door from us. At the age of twelve, I would lose my grandmother from a long battle with lung cancer. Shortly thereafter, my parents became separated; this created a volatile relationship between them, and being the youngest of the three children, I became trapped in the middle of their feud. From this point, it was life-changing; I was faced with the horrible truth of having to fend for myself.
My mother eventually signed over parental rights to my father who was lacking the ability to care for himself. He was always a drinker but began suffering from major depression and would drink away his problems. He suffered from alcoholism and had been admitted many times to various treatment centers. He later began using cocaine and would abuse prescription drugs. During his suffering, I got tossed around to whomever would take me.
Feeling the need to escape, I began a relationship with a young man who was five years older than I. At the tender age of thirteen, he began abusing me. The first time he hit me, I was knocked unconscious and came to with an open wound on my head. As I say that everything happens for a reason, there is a scar on my head that will forever be a reminder that I survived.
At the age of fourteen, I became pregnant and had my son. He would be my inspiration, my strength, and my perseverance to be the best person I can be. When I was sixteen, I became emancipated and obtained my first apartment. By the time I was eighteen, I would find the courage to finally leave the abusive relationship. It was then, that I would begin my journey to heal.
Although it has taken a bit longer for me to achieve my goals, I have never given up and have worked diligently keeping my feet on the ground. I was accepted into YouthBuild Fall River and graduated with my GED. During the program I had the opportunity to visit the State House to share my story. Upon obtaining a certificate of completion, I also received an AmeriCorps education award that I would utilize to attend college. Over the years, and with many changes, I chipped away at my academics. Today, it is still a large discussion on how much influence positive support can have on someone. I often speak about Terry Moran as my saving grace because he believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.
In 2014, I attended Quincy College where I would later go on to graduate with Honors and obtain an Associates Degree in Human Services. It was during that time, that I would also advocate for a policy change. This change was approved! This change allows women to attend college year around without having the fear of losing their childcare subsidy.
Most recently, I graduated Eastern Nazarene College where I obtained my Bachelor's Degree in May 2018. Funny story, I was finally set to graduate college with my bachelor's degree, one month prior to my son graduating with his high school diploma. It was an amazing accomplishment for both of us, but bittersweet, as he would leave to embark on his own journey with the US Air Force a month later. As for me, I went on to obtain my Real Estate license and am now a Licensed Realtor in the State of Massachusetts. My next goal though, is working on earning a Master's of Social Work Degree and I have been accepted into that program. This is where I have faith in all that I aspire to be and all I can do to be a part of the bigger change.
Over the last several years, I've continued to participate in various community service projects particularly dedicating time directly distributing services and goods to the unsheltered men and women in and around the Boston area. My children are a big part of helping me in continuously being involved. My hope, as their mother, is to instill the same morals and values in them, so that they grew into confident, productive citizens of society. It is my passion to positively influence others in hopes of helping to create a world where there's justice and equality - a place where all feel welcome and have equal opportunity to aspire to be the best version of themselves. A highlight of 2019 was serving as the emcee for the 24th Annual YouthBuild Day at the State House. This is another opportunity to inspire the youth, so that they too, can be successful.
On Thursday, September 14, 2017, twenty-five (25) students graduated from the Worcester YouthBuild Program, operated by Training Resources of America, Inc. (TRA). The ceremony took place at Mechanics Hall, 2nd Floor (Washburn Hall) 321 Main Street, Worcester, MA. Representative James J. O’Day (D-West Boylston, an ardent supporter of YouthBuild was the keynote speaker.
The graduates, ages 17 to 25, include: Nedjma Bensahih (22), Joshua Bourassa, (22), Santos Casia (22), Kashon Clemetson (24), Jonathan Cortes (22), Rutherford Dorelus (20), Christian D. Fernandez (18), Imalay Holguin-Guzman (25), Jeremy Javier (23), Kabilraj Kantharaj (23), Harmony Lamarche (18), Gladys Leonardo- Charuco (23), Yarnell May (20), Kaneisha M. Minton (20), Saniyya Moreno (18), Absalon Sambolin (24), Ciara Santiago (22), Hennesis Santiago (20), Joshua Ventura (19), Christian Javier Vergara-Rosado (20), and Gerome Wright (19), all of Worcester; Gabrielle Carter (24) of Gardner; Keith Lowell (25) of Charlton; and Destanie Smith (17) and Domanic Vierkant (18), both from Rutland.
Worcester YouthBuild provides comprehensive training to young people ages 16 to 24 that meet low-income guidelines, are not in school, have not received a high school diploma or High School Equivalency or are basic skills deficient, and demonstrate a willingness to work hard for personal and community change.
Students receive instruction in High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) preparation, self-esteem, life, work readiness, and leadership skills, including community service opportunities. Additionally, participants choose between two skills training tracks: Construction - where they learn carpentry/ building skills utilizing an actual housing rehab or new construction project which helps create quality low-income housing in Worcester and Nursing Assistant – where they learn nurse aide and home health aide skills via a partnership with the American Red Cross. Extensive support services include counseling/ case management, job development/ placement assistance, as well as transition to higher education and follow-up services.
In addition to attaining their High School Equivalency certificates, Construction track students earn OSHA, and Home Builder’s Institute Pre-Apprenticeship Construction Training (HBI-PACT) certificates and Nursing Assistant track students earn their state nurse aide and CPR certifications.
Most of all, the program offers opportunities for personal growth and development. According to graduate Joshua Ventura “I achieved my High School Equivalency credential and my PACT certification thanks to YouthBuild. The program has helped steer me in the right direction both academically and socially, and I couldn’t be more grateful.” Adds, graduate Destanie Smith, “In just a few months, I have completed my High School Equivalency tests, graduated from the American Red Cross, and found an amazing job in the nursing field. I went from being this girl who kept to herself to being an outgoing person…I have also gained many new friends and an amazing support group that I will forever be grateful for.”
This year, Worcester YouthBuild partnered with the American Red Cross for the nurse assistant training and Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC) where students learned carpentry skills through a variety of rehab projects. Additionally, Worcester YouthBuild continued its long-standing partnership with building materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain through the Saint-Gobain Corporation Foundation and with support from the Saint-Gobain family of companies who provided financial assistance and volunteers to teach Science and Math in the YouthBuild classroom.
Program Manager Doug Daigle, TRA President Kim Harmon, and Representative James O’Day joined family and friends in celebrating the young peoples’ many accomplishments.
This year, YouthBuild Lawrence has added a project-based block to the student’s schedule where they apply their learning to solve real world problems. Some of the skills that students were learning were research skills, map-reading skills, topography, team-work, cooperation and oral-speaking from presenting their work.
Johanka Heredia, pictured left, was part of recreating a map of the United States. This project was part of a larger project that included biographies of famous Americans and a timeline of major events that led to the formation of our Country as we know it today.
YouthBuild Lawrence builds low-income housing units in the community to combat poverty and homelessness. Pictured here are seven of the students who worked on a scale model of the alternative school’s new project. Students did all the calculations and mathematical functions to create the three story proportional model from information on the architectural blueprints.
Additional projects that students have worked on include life-skills projects, career projects, and community service projects. Currently students are analyzing their communication style, creating PowerPoints identifying the path to their chosen career in the near future, and analyzing the societal cost of addictions. YouthBuild Lawrence seeks to educate students to be independent and critical thinkers who become successful young leaders and powerful agents of change in their communities while simultaneously building meaningful and self-sufficient identities for themselves.
Brianna Payne's Speech from YouthBuild Day at the State House - April 14, 2016
Good morning everyone. My name is Brianna Payne. I am 20 years old, originally from New Bedford and I recently relocated to Springfield. I am speaking to you all today to share my journey and my experience at YWCA YouthBuild Springfield.
I was supposed to graduate high school in 2014. Due to certain circumstances, I was unable to graduate. I then gave birth to my two children in December of 2014. I struggled for about a year, deciding how I was going to accomplish my goals of getting my diploma and attending college. Becoming homeless with my two newborn babies was the most challenging obstacle I had to overcome.
I relocated to Springfield where I was given the greatest opportunity I’ve ever received in my life. It was a new beginning that gave me hope for a brighter and promising future. The YWCA where I currently live had referred me to the YWCA YouthBuild program.
I was a little skeptical at first because I had wanted a high school diploma and I had felt that I was lowering my standards. However, YouthBuild is one of the most extraordinary programs I’ve had the privilege of being a part of. There are tremendous benefits, opportunities and advantages that YouthBuild has provided me within just a short amount of time.
We have amazing staff and support counselors that work to help each of us with our own individual needs. The YouthBuild program is preparing me to be self sufficient and giving me the ability to further my education and move on to college.
I plan on attending Holyoke Community College in the spring of 2017 for Psychology and Criminal Justice thanks to the support, encouragement and motivation of YouthBuild. I am honestly so appreciative, grateful and privileged to say that I’ve made it here today through my personal perseverance, hard work and dedication but also the support from the director and staff at the YWCA of YouthBuild Springfield. Thank you all so much.
The YWCA of Western Massachusetts YouthBuild Springfield program recently held an Open House at their site that attracted an overflow crowd of community supporters. One focal point of the event featured the Tiny Home that students have been building. This project is part of a statewide effort of the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition and will be used to provide housing for a homeless veteran. This project was funded in part by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, as one of only five grants awarded nationally for 911 Remembrance. This is an excellent teaching project because it involves all of the skills needed to construct a full size house, but can be completed more quickly due to the size. Another part of the project was the education of the students about the events of 911 and the impact that it had on people all over the world because of the events of that fateful day, an event that happened when they were small children.
Mayor Domenic Sarno offered words of encouragement to the students and was also very pleased to see the work that the students performed to help out a fellow citizen in need. He was especially taken by the words of the YouthBuild students. During the event, the students welcomed their guests and gave them a guided tour of the facility. They spoke in glowing terms about the opportunity that YouthBuild provides them. They were happy to talk about how much they had learned since enrolling in the program.
Listening to them talk about the work on the tiny house revealed an amazing sense of pride in their accomplishment. They readily described the various features of the structure and the role that they played in the construction. The satisfaction and achievement that the students took from this experience told the story. The smiles on their faces needed no explanation.
CTI YouthBuild Lowell students participated in an event on March 3, 2016 at Lowell City Hall. They were among those participating in the White Ribbon Campaign that pledges men against domestic violence. There was be a large crowd of city employees and city officials in addition to community members who met this day in City Hall to pledge against domestic violence. Students were among the guest speakers. YouthBuild has built the line of hope display that will be placed in City Hall lobby next week that will display pledges.
The video link below highlights the work YouthBuild Lowell is doing with the Lowell Public School’s career academy program. To date, the first cohort includes five students. Since beginning YB they have all been attending classes, stopped getting high before class and one student received honorable mention on her progress report. These are all students with significant behavioral issues who didn’t make it at the mainstream high school. YouthBuild is offering and alternative way to learn that is proving effective.
Click Here to Watch the Video
TRA Worcester YouthBuild experience to events that signify the transformation that YouthBuild students undergo in the program. The graduation of the class of 2015 was followed by visits from State Legislators during the Mental Toughness Training for the class of 2016. Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative James O'Day and Representative Mary Keefe all visited the program to engage with the students. The photos that you see below are highlights from these two activities.
Legislator Visits During Mental Toughness Training
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