Congresswoman Niki Tsongas visited the YouthBuild Lawrence site to present a check for $1.1 million. The Lawrence Family Development and Education Fund, Inc., which sponsors the YouthBuild program was recently awarded the grant from the United States Department of Labor to continue the efforts of this program which has been a fixture in Lawrence for the past 20 years.
In addition to the Congresswoman, Executive Director, Ralph Carrero of the Lawrence Family Development and Education Fund, Inc. and April Lyskowski, Director of YouthBuild Lawrence welcome to many supporters of the program including city and state officials to join with the students of YouthBuild Lawrence in celebrating on this happy occasion.
YouthBuild Lawrence will be providing education, workforce development, life skills training, leadership development and community service for 68 new students beginning in 2015. These young people will follow in the footsteps of hundreds who have come before them and utilize the skills they learned at the YouthBuild program to be great in a productive and positive lifestyle.
What Does YouthBuild Mean to Me?
My name is Rosemary Cabrera. I am 22 years old, a YouthBuild student, and an AmeriCorps member. When anybody asks me what YouthBuild means to me, I smile and say, “That’s my second home.” I have two worlds in my life, one where I don’t want to be a majority of the time and then there is YouthBuild.
Before I even knew about YouthBuild I was lost, lost in all aspects of my life. I was homeless, no one to steer me in the right direction and had major issues with my family. I have had my share of schools which I attended but the environment was one where I was not able to grow. Quite frankly I took comfort in the streets, gangs and the associated crime and violence; things that could have turned into bad habits. Along the way I noticed time was being wasted and my problems weren’t going anywhere.
I lost all respect for teachers, my family and those who I thought were my friends as I felt abandoned and used. Then my last friend opened my eyes and ears to a program called YouthBuild. At first I was very skeptical and closed minded because I figured it was like every other school, I attended; programs filled with fights, metal detectors and where there was no actual learning. Boy was I in for a surprise. Once YouthBuild began I started to feel uncomfortable but oddly enough not for the expected inconsistency or verbal and mental abuse. I was feeling uncomfortable because the teachers at YouthBuild actually cared. I could not believe the joy in their faces as the 34 of us sat in the Community Room at Orange Wheeler. I remember thinking to myself that I don’t want to do this, not because I thought I was too good but because I feared the opportunities that lay ahead of me. I feared that something of value would be expected of me which would make me actually work and discover new parts of myself.
As the school year went on, I realized the teachers were…in my words…”ABOUT THAT LIFE”. By that I mean the staff, Instead of just expecting the minimum from us, they pushed for more. They did not accept “good enough” but strove for excellence from us. They actually cared about us as individuals, not as simply students. The YB Staff gave us a sense of comfort, stability, a higher self-esteem and most importantly the courage to do what is best.
I have gained knowledge and skills which I will carry into my future and for which I will be forever grateful. I am utilizing knowledge that I am gaining, such as mathematics, English comprehension, American history and natural science to obtain my equivalency degree. Skills, such as carpentry, let me build the house that I am helping to build. I cannot give that credit to anyone but YouthBuild, the staff and the new me.
A year ago I could not have a regular conversation without my anger and fear getting the best of me. People like my classmates and myself need places like YouthBuild. It may sound a bit exaggerated when I say this but YouthBuild saves lives. YouthBuild saves the lives of the future because in the coming years someone like myself will appear many more times and there needs to be someone from YouthBuild to help the next Phoenix rise from the ashes.
Thank you to everyone for your support in making YouthBuild a reality.
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