For this issue of "In Their Own Words," we caught up with 2011 YouthBuild New Bedford graduate McKaila Coulter. We'd like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to share this story with us and all of you. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.
McKaila, tell us a little bit about your background, how you got involved in YouthBuild, and what your experience with the program was like.
My Name is McKaila Coulter and I am from YouthBuild New Bedford. When I entered YouthBuild my last grade completed was 8th. I went to high school for a year but I got sick due to medical conditions and my high school just sent me a letter saying I was no longer a student. I grew up with my mom, a single mother who worked two jobs. School was never easy for me and I was often sick and going from babysitter to babysitter. When I got that letter I was beyond depressed, then one day my mother told me I was going to be starting YouthBuild in the fall. I had never heard of YouthBuild before and I was extremely nervous.
Then the day came and from that day on I was forever changed! It was the first place I ever felt anything close to a family. At YouthBuild they taught me how to be me; I always knew who I was but I was terrified to show it. Each staff member helping to create someone who loved to help the community, understood the importance of equality, how to stand up for themselves, how to love math, how to be a leader, and most importantly, they taught me how to love myself. I was given so many opportunities: I got to speak at the state house, run a rally to support YouthBuild, and also run a youth summit bringing in all the local YouthBuild students together, and meeting people I most likely never would have spoken to. The biggest thing YouthBuild New Bedford gave me was a support system. It was something I had never experienced, something that was the greatest gift I never asked for because I never realized how much I needed it.
You graduated in 2011, what are you doing now? Have you chosen a career path? What are your goals for the future?
I am now 18 years old and an assistant store manager for GameStop. I am also taking a couple of classes at BCC, I am in the community leadership program. My dream would be to work for World Wrestling Entertainment, then work in the criminal justice field while volunteering and hopefully helping YouthBuild New Bedford make my city a better place to live.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at YouthBuild? Does anything in particular stand out?
I have so many great memories of my year there, but my favorite moment was when they did a Thanksgiving dinner for all the students before break, this was great for three reasons. The first being that the food was amazing; homemade food was a rarity in my life. Second being I got to actually eat Thanksgiving dinner with people, another thing I rarely got to do. Third and the most important reason of all was, while eating dinner another student sitting across from me looked at me and said, “This is the best meal ever, I haven’t had this in years.” I laughed and asked, “How come?” he then said, “because I’ve been in jail for four years.” I got really happy when I heard this; it was nice to be sharing a meal with someone who also greatly appreciated it. It was also amazing to know that he was changing his life and that there were people there to help him change!
What advice could you offer to students enrolled in the program now?
As for advice my biggest thing I can tell people is they have to be open. The staff is going to push you, but they are doing it to make you better, to make your future better!
If you or someone you know is a Massachusetts YouthBuild graduate interested in sharing his/her YouthBuild story with our staff, students and supporters, contact Ted Vrountas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earth Day Service Projects
Most of the time our programs' work involves creating environmentally friendly housing for low-income populations, but sometimes, like on Earth Day for instance, we take our mission a step further by helping to create the environment itself. Several YouthBuild programs around Massachusetts have recently begun showing off their green thumbs in honor of our planet because, as one of our students put it, "if you take care of the Earth, the Earth will take care of you."
For the last 15 years, Lawrence Family Development & Education Fund, Inc. and YouthBuild Lawrence have sponsored The Carpentry Challenge, an exciting competition that showcases the talent of YouthBuild students from all over New England. Every year a number of YouthBuild supporters from state government, local communities, and the press gather to watch as up to fourteen teams of students work to frame three intersecting walls with accuracy, efficiency, and safety.
The Carpentry Challenge is more than just a competition though. In addition to competing against each other in the construction pit, students will also work side by side with their fellow YouthBuilders, as well as with the Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition (LMCC) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to complete a service project that will benefit military veterans.
How It Works:
Each program registers a team through MYBC Director Terry Moran or YouthBuild Lawrence Director April Lyskowsky. Teams consist of one coach and six or more student members. Regardless of how many participants a team brings, only six at a time are allowed in the construction "pit" (a 25 foot by 25 foot square workspace blocked off with "caution" tape) to work on the project. In addition to a competitive team, each program is responsible for supplying the following:
1. A Referee: Referees will be YouthBuild staff or other volunteers with construction experience. It will be their responsibility to monitor each team for safety violations, over-coaching and foul language -- for which there are penalties assessed. Referees will rotate teams every fifteen minutes or so to ensure impartiality throughout the competition.
2. Community Service Volunteers: Instead of working in the pit, these students will cooperate with other YouthBuilders from around New England to complete a service project that will be presented to the veterans for whom they were built at the end of the competition.
3. Tools: Each team will supply its own tools, both power and hand. This will include saw horses, ladders, and safety equipment. No tools will be supplied by YouthBuild Lawrence or Home Depot. Neither laser levels nor pneumatic gas/powder activated tools are allowed, however the use of electric tools is acceptable.
Starting at 9:15AM, students teams will have approximately three hours to frame three intersecting walls complete with window and door openings based on measurements determined the morning of the competition. Once a team has completed their project to specifications, they declare it to the judges and their time is recorded. After a team has declared, no alterations can be made.
When all programs are through, judges will begin the process of evaluating each project one by one. They will look for things like: level walls, square intersections, correct framing, correct door/window size, etc. For each error a certain amount of time will be added to the program's total. The team with the fastest time after the judges have assessed each project will be declared the 16th Annual Carpentry Challenge Champion. The day will then conclude with the award ceremony and service project presentation.
Set to take place on May 14th at The Home Depot in Methuen, MA, The 16th Annual Carpentry Challenge is sure to be one of the most exciting days all year for the students, staff, and supporters of YouthBuild from all over New England. We hope to see you there.
YouthBuild Boston and Bartlett Events erect Roxbury's first "Before I Die" Wall.
We've all thought about it at some point in our lives, but not many of us have put it in writing. Now, if you happen to pass by the corner of Washington and Bartlett St. in Roxbury, you'll have the opportunity to share your bucket list with the world.
The first "Before I Die" Wall was designed in New Orleans by Candy Chang after the passing of a close friend left her pondering the future. Curious whether others shared similar thoughts, she painted the wall of an abandoned house in her neighborhood with the help of some friends -- on it she stenciled "Before I die I want to ________" numerous times over. She returned home that night unknowing of two things: 1. How the community would respond, and 2. That she was about to start a movement.
Four years and 150 walls later, Candy Chang's project has gained the attention of national news stations like CBS, publications like The Washington Post, communities all over the world - and now, the City of Boston. Today YouthBuild Boston collaborated with local artist Michelle Murray, the Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, and Bartlett Events to erect Roxbury's first "Before I Die" Wall on the corner of Washington St. and Bartlett St. Our students were the first to share their lifelong goals, but we're sure they won't be the last. If you're in the area, stop by and share a dream or two. Who knows, you may inspire a few people while you're at it.