The Great Hall of Flags was packed to capacity on Thursday when over 300 students, staff members, supporters, and legislators turned out for the YouthBuild rally at the Massachusetts State House. Once a year, all ten MYBC programs gather together on Beacon Hill to give students an opportunity to meet the senators and representatives from their districts, as well as other YouthBuild members from around the state.
For the majority of students this trip to the state house was a first, so representatives and long-time YouthBuild supporters Byron Rushing and Gloria Fox wanted to make it a memorable one. Both have become known around the YouthBuild community for their inspirational talks, and as a State House Day first-timer I soon found out why. While they differed slightly in content, both speeches were equally motivational and before we had a chance to settle in students were on their feet chanting and cheering louder than what I thought was allowable at the State House. "Whose house is this?!" Rushing and Fox would ask the students. "Our house!" they would reply in unison. It felt more like pre-game locker room pump up speech than anything else and it certainly relieved any anxiety that State House Day rookies were experiencing.
Dr. Charles Wall receives his YB Visionary Award
The morning program concluded with the presentation of YouthBuild Visionary Awards to three invaluable allies of the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition. The first, Governor Deval Patrick, helped the Coalition secure funding in a time when money was scarce and most programs were being cut. The second, Massassoit Community College President Charles Wall, has been working closely with surrounding YouthBuilds to help students afford enrollment at MCC by offering tuition assistance upon graduation the program. The third and final honoree, Union Carpenter Tim Tudor, has assisted students in finding work within the union once they graduate. We are deeply appreciative of all that these outstanding visionaries have done to further the success of our programs.
Following the award presentations, Angel Diaz took the stage one more time for some closing remarks, most memorable of them being: "We can't choose our relatives, but we can choose our family. At YouthBuild we're all family."
With that, students separated into groups by program and set out to meet the representatives from their districts, hoping to secure funding for next year's students by sharing with legislators their hopes, aspirations, and the changes that YouthBuild has made in their lives.