The YouthBuild Lowell students presented their idea for a cookbook, “Extraordinary Flavors of Lowell”, featuring local recipes provided by the students to include: Latin Food, Soul Food, American Food, and Desserts. The Merrimack Valley Sandbox awarded the students seed money of $300.00 to create their project. Once the original cookbook was completed, the students again presented to the Sandbox Pitch Contest and won FIRST PLACE of $1,000.00 to continue the production of the cookbook!!!!
YouthBuild Lowell, in partnership with Mill City Grows, an organization that builds neighborhood gardens and provides education for growing, has been building garden boxes for Mill City Grows to place around the City of Lowell so that its’ citizens can plant their own vegetables and be self-sufficient. YouthBuild has purchased a box for the season so that the students can plant their own garden.
First of all I would like to thank you for having me, and thank the Youth Build Brockton staff for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
Growing up in Brockton, I didn’t have much. I grew up fast. I started off at a young age, selling drugs and gang banging. I was always fighting, getting suspended, and arrested. I was what you would call a troubled teen, an at-risk youth.
By the time I was 17, I was kicked out of two alternative schools and Job Corps, all for fighting and gang issues. My parents and I would fight all the time. Coming back from Job Corps, nothing changed. I had no job and I wasn’t in school. I was back to gang banging and hustling, drinking every night and hanging on the street with the wrong crowd. I would leave the house at 10am and wouldn’t be home until 2 am, eyes red and smelling like weed. My family didn’t know what to do with me anymore.
When I finally heard about YouthBuild through a friend, I was ready for a change. I always knew the streets were easy but going legit was hard. And I’d been in the streets so long I just felt it was time for a change. I came into YouthBuild with the right attitude. I knew this was it for me and I couldn’t mess this up. I took everything YouthBuild had to offer.
I was part of the Katrina Relief Team, where we went to New Orleans and Gulfport, Mississippi for two weeks, to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. I enrolled in the Summer Bridge program at Massasoit Community College. I represented Youth Build at the Mayor’s Council. I was offered my first job through the Mayor’s office, as Park and Recreations Supervisor, where I supervised a group of at-risk youth cleaning and repairing local playgrounds at D.W. Fields Park in Brockton.
I received my GED, NCCER training, HBI PACT certification and became OHSA certified.
I helped build several homes in Brockton with the skills I learned here at YouthBuild, and also helped build my community in different volunteer projects around the city.
But it was the staff at Youth Build that made things possible for me.
When no one gave me a chance YouthBuild did. All it takes is for you to show you are willing to work hard and do what it takes to make it and succeed. And once in YouthBuild always in YouthBuild, it really is like a family.
After I graduated in 2007, my family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where we spent the next five years
I was against it at first but I needed a change. No matter how well I was doing academically, there was always that temptation, chasing the high of being in the streets. I had a little brother now, who was getting older and mom didn’t want him to have the same problems I had, and neither did I.
I kept in touch with Mr. McHugh, our science teacher, who kept me informed on what was going on. We always kept a great friendship to this day. He is one of the most intelligent, respectable and honest person I’ve ever met.
I would tell him about what I was doing, about my music and how I missed Brockton. He told me if I ever decided to come back there’s a chance a job might open up for me.
I ended up driving 14 hours, by myself, back to Massachusetts
I went back to YouthBuild Brockton to check in with Mr. McHugh and after showing interest in being involved with the program again, I was offered a position as a Construction Skills Trainer.
When I first came back it was tough but I knew this was my chance to really do right. An older guy I know from the streets once said, “I’ve taken so much from my community, it feels good to give some of it back.” And that’s how I felt. Here I am after what I’ve been through, and now I’m helping others like myself, stay away from the wrong path. I come from the same streets as most of these students and I can understand what they’re going through and where they’re coming from, and that’s a blessing to me. So far as a staff I’ve supervised a Summer Job’s program with the Mayor’s office and the Thrive program. I’ve lead an additional construction program of my own and volunteered at many local and surrounding organizations.
I love what I do, I love waking up every morning and coming to work. I love the staff I work with, the company I work for, the students I see every day and the chance I have to make a positive difference in their lives.
The sad truth is we can’t save everybody, even when we wish we could. But if you give an individual the chance to change themselves, maybe they can change their community, and if they can change their community maybe we can change the world, one person at a time.