On Thursday, October 2nd, The YouthBuild Fall River class of 2014 celebrated ten months of hard work and dedication with a ceremony aboard the USS Massachusetts. Despite inclement weather that forced the celebration down below the deck, the Battleship Cove venue added a dramatic backdrop to the event. Led by Program Manager Carmen Richardi, graduates had the opportunity to congratulate each other on their success, and laugh at some of their stumbles along the way.
They were reminded by community partner Laura Washington that they have been called some of the most intellectual people in our community as part of a survey group she completed for Harvard University. Executive Director Mark Showan reminded the group that the staff had made a commitment to them and their transformation and that although they want to hear about great things going on in the graduate’s lives, they want to see them when they encounter roadblocks to success.
State Representative Carole Fiola spoke about her pride for the YouthBuild Program and its students this year, emphasizing her awe that every student she met in her office almost a year ago was looking back at her from the crowd, wearing a cap and gown, in triumph. She told the audience that as a new legislator a year ago, she knew nothing about YouthBuild, but was sold on the program from the first time she met the students in person. She said that she will always have a special connection with this group as she watched them grow at several events throughout the year.
Youth Policy Committee member Hector Santiago spoke to his classmates about the ups and downs they experiences together, reminding them of all of the service work they did for the community, and all of the people that had a hand in their transformative year.
Instructor Sean Connell and Alumnus Christian Berrios were able to sum of the sentiments of the entire staff when they reminded the graduates that they should be proud of their achievement, but this is by no means the end of their journey. They were encouraged to remember that once they are in YouthBuild, they will always be in YouthBuild; that YouthBuild will celebrate their successes, but also guide them through their fallbacks.
In closing, the graduates were led by classmate Bryan Marrero in reciting the pledge for the final time as a group. It was conducted as loudly and as proudly as ever!