Are your students ready for the 2014 GED?
Are they fully prepared for their educational pursuits beyond YouthBuild?
Do they have the credentials necessary to enter today’s evolving green building trades?
Staff from all eleven Massachusetts YouthBuild programs came together to address these questions, and more, at the most recent MYBC Learning Academy in New Bedford. It's the third time Massachusetts YouthBuild case management, construction, and education staff have come together with the goal of learning new and innovative ways to prepare their students to attain their GED and enter the workforce or go on to postsecondary institutions.
Close to 60 staff members attended morning and afternoon workshops led by:
“The major purpose of this Learning Academy was to make staff aware of any new trends and materials that were available regarding the GED and industry-recognized credentials,” said MYBC Director Terry Moran, who organized the event. “We really wanted to concentrate on individual program components and how they fit into overall program improvement.”
Continuing improvement is necessary, since students entering the workforce and going on to postsecondary institutions now face higher standards for success, as evidenced by the growing need for fully credentialed professionals in the green building trades, a complete overhaul of the GED test due to complaints about its inability to prepare those taking it, and the emergence of a National Work Readiness Credential. Learning Academies are held to prepare staff to prepare students for the shift in qualifications they'll be facing in the future, and as long as they continue, our programs and our graduates will enjoy great success.
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“Dream” was the theme of YouthBuild Just-A-Start’s Poetry Night, an event that brought the local YouthBuild community together to express itself through spoken word. Approximately twenty students and ten staff from the program, along with YouthBuild USA representatives, Just-A-Start alumni, and community members, showed up to share poetry they had either written, or read and felt passionately about.
“It’s a tradition here at Just-A-Start,” said Alan Chazaro, the ELA instructor who organized the event. “It’s definitely one of those nights all of us remember at the end of the year.”
About a month before, students began preparing for Poetry Night by reading a variety of pieces, finding their poetic voices, and practicing their oration. Chazaro exposed his class to a range of topics and styles, but his goal wasn't necessarily to get students to create an original piece, it was simply to convince them to experiment with a form of emotional expression that may have otherwise gone untried.
“I’m very much about words being powerful,” he said. “This might not be something that you may ever do, but let’s all try it together, and have fun doing it.”
And they did. Even the more reserved students, who were hesitant at first, shared after witnessing the bravery of their peers and teachers to open up to the audience.
“We don’t always get to see those sides of ourselves,” he explained. “Students appreciate seeing each other, and staff in different ways – outside of the roles that we’re used to seeing each other in. Poetry night is very unifying because we’re all willing to take risks in front of each other and for each other.”
The pieces varied greatly in subject – from a poem titled “Hope,” to another called “Ode to Eva Mendez;" but more important than the topics of their poems was students’ willingness to share them.
Chazaro recalled one student in particular: “He said to me, ‘Alan, I don’t really want to do this.’ So I asked him politely just to try it, and he did. By the end of the night, unprompted, he had asked me on three more occasions to go up and share again – and he did. By the fourth time I had to turn him down because we didn't have enough time,” he laughed.
Having the theme “Dream,” meant that whenever the word was mentioned throughout the night, audience members that raised their hand would receive a prize. It also meant that everyone would eventually work together to create a group poem by completing the phrase “Dreams of…” on a piece of paper distributed to each table. The result was this inspirational collection of dreams:
YOUTHBUILD JUST-A-START DREAM POEM
I may not be free to do many things but nothing can stop me from having these dreams:
Dreams of salty air, long days, open roads, smiles, deep smiles, heavy laughter, hidden spaces found, money underground, eyes slowing.
Dreams of a community that puts dreams ahead of negativity.
Dreams of a healthy city that squelches racism, gentrification, injustices. A strong community that grows stronger and stronger and even stronger.
Dreams of a happy state of mind, balance in life.
Dreams of living comfortable and happy.
Dreams of getting back on that railroad to success and harmony and finesse.
Dreams of Pablo Escobar.
Dreams of a lifetime supply of chicken wings.
Dreams of having a big house paid for.
Dreams of a family close enough to hug and a life that is free of stress.
Dreams of graduating.
Dreams of making it big.
Dreams of cars, clothes & women.
Dreams of accomplishing my goals when people say I CAN’T.
Dreams of my car with rims trimmed down so low it hits the ground.
Dreams of being successful in school, life, etc….
Dreams, better yet, goals of becoming an independent individual with no chains and wings to soar.
Dreams of conflict that ends too soon, dreams of happiness always a choice.
Dreams of YouthBuild, dreams about life, be careful what you dream for, life can roll over like a pair of dice.
Dreams of seeing all my people free from the system.
Dreams of having chicken noodle soup for breakfast and cereal for dinner.
Dreams of making an upward wind in the downward spiral.
Dreams of knowledge. These dreams leave me wandering through a desert, thirsty, searching for a fountain of answers. It’s a mirage—I wake with only more questions.
Dreams of travelling to a new country just to see it, and learning the language so I can read all its books & stories.
“My main purpose as an ELA teacher is to show my students that they have voices and that they’re powerful and they need to be heard,” said Chazaro. “Their voices aren’t just those of individuals, they are the collective voice of a community.”
Read on for more original work from Poetry Night, and don’t forget to check YouthBuild Just-A-Start’s student blog for additional student essays and projects as they’re written.
A Woman's Worth
Holds you down when things get rough
Walks a mile, makes you smile, all while being true
Makes you realize that no one nor nothing else can compare to you
Independent in this world, making it her own
She believes she’s a queen sitting in her throne
Takes a whole lotta man to understand a woman's worth
But a real woman knows a real man comes first
I Am Like Poem
I am like the clock because I stay working
My life is like a book because the last chapter is when I die
I’m like the checkmark on the board because I stay checking people
I can open up like a door
Do we live in a safe environment?
With destruction planned by the government?
People from our community are blind
We look for freedom but freedom is hard to find
All we want is the truth
People try saying it public that’s why we rap in the booth
Is there an Illuminati?
Do people really sell their soils for a Ferrari or Bugatti?
It’s the end of time
When you start seeing all these crimes
But what people don’t realize
Is they have powerful minds
TRYING TO FIND YOU
When I look at the sky
the glory, I can feel it in my arms
but when I look down
I feel scared from that.
Winter storms have come
and darkened my soul.
After all that I've been through
who in the world can I turn to.
I would like to look to you
but stuck in this world
I can't really find you.
Everything dark around me
dead people walking in my path
trying to survive on my own
but I can't, I fell from a
and when I hit the floor
I wake up.
Hope isn't something you can achieve.
As long as you reach,
As long as you believe.
Hope is the thing you hold on to tight.
Even through the worst fright.
Enforce your might,
So no negativity can cloud your sight.
Your hope is too bright,
Nothing can disrupt this light.
This is your goal,
This is your hope,
So now is your time to fight.
For what you believe is right.
So take your beliefs,
And let them take flight.
The soft breeze floats by,
That forms the gentle ripples,
And makes the trees weep.
I'm different. I'm like an African
violet, exotic, rare, hard to find.
When you see me you know I'm
there, but you just can't figure out what
it is. I'm different. I'm like a
bike with 6 wheels. I'm different.
Am I too different? No.
Ode to Eva Mendez
Her hair is like a sunflower
as she stands nice and
tan like a baked potato.
Her laugh as soothing
as a breeze on the beach.
Her body is nice
And shaped, stands
nice and firm
like a peach tree
with good structure.
I also enjoy
the red dress
she wears on Fridays,
of a red tasty slosh,
nice to have.
I am a hero
I'm worth so much, never to be compared to a zero
I was raised to be equal and never say Negro
My mom and dad taught me not to steal
Always to be myself, kind, energetic, and real
I'm my own soldier, my own navy seal
I stand tall and will die with honor
And it’s all thanks to my mother and father.
The light is worth more than gold itself
They can change for heaven's light, it’s whatever
I am weak with no light, weak to gain health
Even if I go broke, I'll be clever
A man with no path is a man who's lost
A world with no planets or star
Is to give meaning to telescopes
With no light I picture crashing cars
No light is like hanging from yellow ropes
Light is what gives hopes to my economy
With no light energy I can't boost my battery level
No light is no warmth, no harmony
The light has been gone for far too long man
No light can transform a good man to the wrong man
Today, thanks to the MA Nonprofit Network and Citizens Bank, about 200 nonprofit organizations had the opportunity to share their impact at the State House and on social media. Thankfully we found out about Nonprofit Awareness Day just in time to participate. We've spent most of the day sharing the work we do and the outcomes of our ten member programs with the Twittersphere, nonprofit leaders and government officials on Beacon Hill, and now, in case you missed it, we've posted them to our blog. Read on to find out "Five ways YouthBuild is Transforming Massachusetts and its Youth."
1. Our programs give high school drop-outs another chance at earning their diploma or GED
While involved with the program, nearly 60 percent of our students attain their GED, or in some cases, through a partnership with local schools, their high school diploma.
2. At YouthBuild, young people have the opportunity to rebuild their communities through volunteer service
Since 2009, the students in our programs have rehabbed 309 housing units, built 16, and participated in 224 other construction projects, all for the benefit of low-income families. In total, our staff and students have worked on 510 community projects and completed more than 500,000 AmeriCorps service hours.
3. In our programs, youth gain relevant job skills that make them more employable upon graduation
Every year, 24 percent of students complete internships and altogether earn about 900 industry recognized credentials while in the program. Once they graduate, about 13% go into construction related work, while 47% percent are placed in other jobs.
4. Students receive an educational base that allows them to continue their schooling once they exit the program
Over 90 percent of our students show literacy and numeracy gains (either Grade Level or Functional Level) within a year, and after that year, 25% are placed in post-secondary or vocational institutions. Altogether, 84% of students continue their schooling or are placed in jobs after exiting the program.
5. We promote a positive lifestyle that our students bring with them beyond YouthBuild
In the past three years, 400 students, or 27% of those enrolled, had a history of involvement with the criminal justice system. Since entering YouthBuild and beyond, 382 of those young people have gone without another incident (monitored during enrollment and 90 days past graduation).
But promoting positive lifestyles means more than encouraging good citizenship.
"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 in how I view myself, my community, and the world, and will continue to throughout my life."
"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."
- YouthBuild New Bedford graduate Nathanael Lopez (click here for full interview)
"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."
- YouthBuild New Bedford grad McKaila Coulter (click here for full interview)
Learning, building, serving -- our students are up to amazing things. A big thank you to Citizens Bank and the MA Nonprofit Network for allowing us the opportunity to share them.