Andre Dockery is a graduate who developed an impressive reputation while at YouthBuild Boston.
It became so impressive that it earned him the opportunity to represent his program at the State House, at various MYBC events, and at countless community service projects throughout the city. Today you'll find him working hard in his new construction position with his sights set on a more prosperous future.
Find out where he's been, and where he wants to be, in this issue of In Their Own Words.
Okay Andre, what’s your full name and when did you graduate from the program?
My name is Andre Dockery. I graduated September 1 of this year.
Tell me a little bit about your background -- where you’re from and where you grew up.
Well I’ve been a Boston native all my life. I was born in Orchard Park and now I’m living in Mattapan.
So what were you up to before you joined YouthBuild and how did you hear about it?
Well I was looking for jobs and I had gotten some interviews but they didn’t work out. So I got introduced to YouthBuild by a street worker who’s known me since I was a little kid. He’s the one that introduced me to the program and if it wasn’t for him I probably would’ve never known about YouthBuild. I’d never heard of it.
Was there a specific moment you remember thinking “I have to make a change in my life”?
It was at that moment, once he introduced it to me, that I knew it was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. It was going to be a new experience for me, and I’ve always wanted to do construction since I was little.
Gotcha. So when you joined the program, I know they have mental toughness for a few weeks…
Oh yeah…oh my lord.
Haha... I was going to say, mental toughness is a pretty rigorous test designed to take you out of your comfort zone. Did it do that for you?
Oh man yes it did. It was tough just like the name says. It was tough waking up in the morning every day, trying to be on time. It gets to the point where it makes you responsible.
Did it weed a lot of the other kids out?
It sure did, most of the kids quit. Most of them weren’t up to it. I was surprised that I was able to stick through it.
How was adjusting to daily life in the program? Because I know YouthBuild is pretty strict about when you come in, and how you act, and how you dress…it must have been very different for you.
It was, but I know how to adjust and adapt to different environments. I know how to act when and where, so it wasn’t too bad, but I still had a few problems in the beginning. I’ve cleaned it up since then though.
Now did you go to public school before YouthBuild?
Yes, I went to Boston Day and Evening School.
And that didn’t work out for you?
Oh, it did, I graduated.
Oh, so you came into the program with your high school diploma?
I see, so how was the experience at Boston Day and Evening School different from your experience at YouthBuild?
It was totally different. You can’t do the same things (in YouthBuild) you did while you were in school. When I first went to Boston Day and Evening, I wasn’t cutting it. My first couple of weeks I stopped going because a teacher made feel uncomfortable. You see, me and math are not on the same level, and this teacher used to put me on the spot and that made me uncomfortable. It was different because you can’t get away with the same things (at YouthBuild) that you could in school. It (YouthBuild) teaches you how to be mature.
So, the staff at YouthBuild Boston… did you ever take advantage of the placement staff or the support staff during your time in the program?
Oh yes that’s how I got to where I’m at now. One of the staff gave me an application to the company I’m at now and it actually worked out and I got the job, so I owe it all to YouthBuild.
I know you’ve probably worked on a ton of service projects. Can you pinpoint a specific one that was the most rewarding to you, maybe because of your role in the project, or because of the project’s level of difficulty, or maybe because of who you were doing it for?
Yeah I have a couple. The first one was at the Red Cross. We packaged food for people who can’t afford to go to Stop & Shop or Shaw’s. It feels good to do that because it feels good to give back, you know? And the second one was a service project where we went out into the community on Centre Street and cleaned up the neighborhood, planted some vegetables, and we made it look…I want to say “safe”, but that’s not the right word. It just felt good to give back, because I’ve never been part of something like that.
Okay, so what is the difference between Andre before YouthBuild and Andre after YouthBuild. What’s changed about you since you graduated from the program?
I will say that I have matured a lot. A lot. The old Andre would sit around and lollygag and play video games. Andre now wakes up and goes to work…I don’t even play video games as much. I’m just trying to live life and accomplish what I need to accomplish.
You were saying you have a new job now, correct? What’s that all about?
Well right now I’m starting from the bottom basically -- cleaning up shop, helping out the union guys that have been there, doing whatever they need me to do. Once I get my driver’s license I will be able to deliver the materials to job sites.
Oh wow, when are you trying to get your license?
Well I have my road test scheduled for November 6, but I have a lot of practicing to do before then.
Well, I’m sure the test in Boston is more difficult than most, so I wish you luck.
Haha, thank you.
So I know that YouthBuild focuses a lot on goals -- short-term, long-term. What are some of your short-term and long-term goals now that you’re out of the program?
Well my short-term goal is to get my driver’s license and to get a car. My long-term goal is to progress in the company that I’m at now. I want to grow and reach my peak at this job. I want to make my career as good as I possibly can.
Awesome, do you have your sights set on any particular position?
Yes, I want to be an operator. They just finally gave me a key to the Caterpillar machine…you know, the ones that are at the job sites. It’s the machine that digs into the ground with the claw in front of the truck. They finally gave me key to that.
Congratulations, so that’s what you want to do?
Yes, I want to operate the machines.
Just that machine, or do you want operate all types of machines? And do you need a specific license?
Oh yes, all of them, and there are a lot of licenses I’ll need to get. The license I’ll need for that one is called a hoister license, which is a hydraulics license.
Well obviously you are going places and you’ve had a lot of success in the program. What advice would you give to kids thinking about enrolling at YouthBuild?
My advice would be to go in with a positive attitude and just stick with it. In the beginning it can be tough, but just stick with it. That’s the best advice I can give. Just try to reach your goals and stay committed.
Alright, so on a less serious note, tell me, when you’re not at YouthBuild or at work, what you do in your free time?
Um, sleeping mostly, haha. That job entails a whole lot of work, so I barely do anything now outside of that. I like spending time with my family and just relaxing.
If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you’d buy?
Hmm, a house. Definitely a house.
And where would the house be?
If I wanted to stay near Boston I’d probably say Milton, or somewhere else quiet. But if I wanted to enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the people, I’d probably go to Miami. If I ever decide to go to college, I want to go to Miami University.
Is that a goal of yours, to go to Miami University?
No, it’s not a goal right now. But if I ever decide I want to go to college, that’s where I want to go.
If you could have dinner with one person in history, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Martin Luther King I would say. He’s a man of words and he could just put upon wisdom and take your mind. To hear him talk would be inspirational. So that’s who I’d like to have dinner with. Actually, or Malcolm X.
Oh yeah? They’re two very different people though…
They are; they really are. But they’re both men of wisdom and the way they speak is powerful, so those would be the two I would like to have dinner with.
Okay so I know YouthBuild Boston put up a “Before I Die” Wall in Roxbury on which people wrote what they want to accomplish before they die. If you were going to write on that wall, what would you write?
Wow, that’s a good one. Well before I die I’d like to travel the world. That’s one of my goals.
What do you want to see? Where do you want to go? Do you have any idea?
My boss actually asked me that same question. It really doesn’t matter. I feel like traveling the world would help explain everything. I just want to see everything.
Lastly, do you have any shout-outs you would like to give to anyone that helped you get to where you are now? You know, friends, family, students, teachers…
Definitely, definitely. I want to give a shout-out to the whole YouthBuild program: Taia, Ms. Monica, my brother Greg, Mr. Ken Smith, my instructor John…just everybody…Ms. Marlena…everybody has been truly helpful to me. I can’t forget my man Joe Diaz, and Danny Ortiz…just everybody. I know I’m naming a whole lot, haha, but everybody has been so helpful. Without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.
More issues of ITOW: Phiroth Khourn, 2011 YouthBuild Fall River graduate
Sthephany Garcia, 2012 YouthBuild Fall River graduate
Nathanael Lopez, 2009 YouthBuild New Bedford graduate
McKaila Coulter, 2011 YouthBuild New Bedford graduate