This month, for the first time since 2006, the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition welcomes a new member to its ranks. The North Shore Community Development Coalition of Salem was approved as a YouthBuild USA affiliate last year, and after recently applying for membership to the MYBC, was voted in unanimously by its current members.
Currently, the North Shore CDC operates a program in conjunction with the Salem Community Charter School that offers young, low-income individuals the opportunity to engage in community service while gaining educational, career, and leadership skills.
Sound familiar? Their mission, philosophy, and internal operations are in many ways identical to those of a YouthBuild program.
“They already have many of the YouthBuild components in place and have built great community relationships,” said Terry Moran, MYBC Director. “We’ll be working with them to develop those additional components and we’re looking forward to doing so.”
Since its establishment in 2010, the North Shore CDC has created over 300 units of affordable housing as one of the largest community development coalitions in Massachusetts. As the newest member of the Coalition, they will bring their knowledge, experience, and determination to every MYBC monthly meeting, weighing in on some of the key issues that affect YouthBuild programs in Massachusetts.
Find out more about YouthBuild North Shore and the North Shore CDC
Read about North Shore CDC's YouthBuild Affiliate Status on Wicked Local
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At about nine o’clock yesterday morning, student and staff volunteers from ten MYBC programs sat on the front steps of the State House while YouthBuild Boston Director Ken Smith, Coalition Director Terry Moran, and Boston mayoral candidate Charlotte Golar Richie, explained the significance of the work they were about to take part in.
“The State House is your house,” Richie told students, urging them to treat it as such throughout State House Landscaping Day, a Massachusetts YouthBuild community service project aimed at restoring the front lawn of the building.
According to Paul Rouhas, YB Boston Community Service Coordinator, State House Landscaping Day began five years ago as a service-learning project geared toward bringing their vocational training program to a highly visible platform. It has since evolved into a statewide event, gathering all ten MYBC programs to plant, dig, weed, edge, and do whatever else necessary to green-ify the outside of the State House.
“It’s hard work, but it’s fun work,” said Matthew Miranda, a student at YouthBuild New Bedford who explained that getting to know other Massachusetts students while having the opportunity to show gratitude to YouthBuild supporters in the State House made the project a whole lot easier. “I like coming out here and supporting the State House. They’ve been supporting us for so long, so it’s good to give back to them as they’ve been giving back to us, and it’s good to get our hands dirty and show them that we can serve the community,” Miranda added.
“It is a pretty neat thing,” said Rouhas, who organized the event alongside YB Boston Assistant Landscape Manager Scott Baldelli. “Until recently, many of the areas of the front yard were closed to visitors, and YouthBuild students were some of the lucky few to actually be able to set foot out there and do something productive at the same time.”
By the end of the day, students had planted countless flowers and bushes, uprooted piles of weeds, and spread a mountain of mulch. They were tired, but every one of them went home proud of the job they had done. They had, as Charlotte Golar Richie advised them earlier in the day, treated the State House with the same care and attention they would have their own.
Thank you to all who made the day a successful one.
Pictures of our students' hard work below:
A big thank you to Nathanael Lopez for putting this story together and allowing us to share it with the Massachusetts YouthBuild community.
My name is Nathanael Lopez and I am a YouthBuild New Bedford graduate. My youth was that of a typical inner city kid. I was raised by my mother, my father was not around. I had no real goals or ambitions for my future, for I could not see myself living past the present moment. I had friends and family murdered by the time I was 17, and by 18 I was in trouble with the law. My life mistakes were piling up fast and it felt like my life was in a tailspin. Not having many other options being a high school drop out, I decided to go back to school and get my GED with YouthBuild.
I had known a few people who had graduated from the program and they suggested it might be a good fit for me. Once there, I loved the way the staff interacted with the students. They would support, encourage, and enlighten the students on how to be productive members of their society. They exposed me to a world beyond my imagination. The knowledge and life-altering experiences that I've gained through the YouthBuild New Bedford program have played an intricate part on how I view myself, my community, and the world, and will continue to throughout my life.
Today I work with at-risk youth, mentoring them and trying to get them to see that there is more to life then the streets. I hope to continue to work with at-risk youth and my community. To empower the youth through knowledge and self-respect. I would eventually like to run for some sort of public office. I feel that it's a good way to help my community. I would have a say in how our resources are spent and focus on helping our youth with a more practical and sensible approach to education.
My best memory was speaking at Beacon Hill. I was nervous. I had never done any form of public speaking before. With the support of my fellow students and the staff I mustered up the courage to go up and speak. That day taught me a valuable life lesson. That is in order for you to truly grow you have to step out of your comfort zone. I'm glad I did it. Its a memory I'll never forget.
The thing that stands out the most is the sense of family and camaraderie that I received at YouthBuild. They were able to integrate, educate, and motivate me into being a good role model in my community - in a way that had been unparalleled before. Don't ever stop believing in yourself. Even when things seem hopeless. Whether you say "I can" or "I cant," either way you'll be right. So don't underestimate your ability to do or be whatever you want. Only you can stop you.
If you are a YouthBuild graduate from Massachusetts interested in sharing your story with us, our supporters, and the MA YouthBuild community, contact Ted Vrountas at firstname.lastname@example.org
More issues of In Their Own Words:
Sthephany Garcia, 2012 YouthBuild Fall River Graduate
Phiroth Khourn, 2011 YouthBuild Fall River Grad
Mckaila Coulter, 2011 YouthBuild New Bedford Graduate
The conditions could not have been better for the YouthBuild Carpentry Challenge, an annual competition that tests students’ building accuracy, safety, and efficiency while allowing them the opportunity to give back to their community.
When it was first held in 1996, the event attracted only four programs, all from Massachusetts. The 2013 competition brought together over 200 youth from thirteen YouthBuild sites across New England, along with their teachers, program directors and community representatives. “It’s our most popular event every year,” said MYBC Director Terry Moran, “it’s a fun competition that gives our students the opportunity to show all the hard work they’ve put into their education – both in the classroom and on the construction site.”
The main objective for each six-student team was to frame three intersecting walls complete with window and door openings – a project that requires more than just basic construction knowledge. “It’s more than simply ‘go out and put up three walls,’” Moran explained. “You have to know your team’s strengths, and you need use the blueprint we provide to think up a strategy and execute it quickly and accurately, or else you’re going to get penalized.” Penalties were assessed for things like poor safety precautions, incorrect measurements, and improper technique; and each resulted in a deduction of points from a program’s total.
Win or lose, students were thrilled to be a part of this year's event. “We’re just thankful for the opportunity to be here. It’s always great to get together with our YouthBuild brothers and sisters from around Massachusetts," said Khalil Ayoud, a student from Fall River. As the competition portion came to a close around noon, it became clear that Khalil wasn't the only one who felt this way. Students moved from their construction pits over toward the DJ, and at this point, if you, like I, assumed they were all too tired from working three hours on their project to dance in unison to the "Cha Cha Slide", you were proven wrong. Even the staff got in on the fun (yellow shirts).
While judges from Home Depot examined each pit, other student volunteers were engaged in a service project done in collaboration with the Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition (LMCC) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that benefited handicapped military vets. YouthBuilders from each program worked together to complete several handicap accessible planters that will be donated to local organizations whose seniors expressed interest in the opportunity to garden. “As an organization that supports youth who have been unsuccessful in traditional high schools, we try to engage our students and give back to our communities in non-traditional ways like the Carpentry Challenge,” said Nicole Rioux, Case Manager at YouthBuild Fall River.
When it came time to declare the winner, students yet again expressed their gratitude: “The opportunity to do something like this is fun to be together as friends. To see people not arguing, not fighting, seeing how they come together as a team, it’s sportsmanship. I’m glad to be here and having fun.” said Jorge Rodriguez, a student whose team just missed finishing in the top three.
The team with the highest point total after the judges were through deliberating was YouthBuild New Bedford, who narrowly edged out YouthBuilds Boston and Brockton for the win.
And although only one team was declared victor, every program was able to erect all three of their walls accurately and safely. "I would let any one of these groups build my house," said one Home Depot judge after the competition.
With the help of Bank of America, who awarded the MYBC with a $15,000 grant for the purpose of holding the competition, and The Home Depot, who generously offered materials, space, and volunteers, the 16th Annual YouthBuild Carpentry Challenge was a great success for all involved.
Pictures from the event below: