A local philanthropist had an idea and as a result, eight young men are now dressed to enter the workforce. Drew Weber is the owner of the Lowell Spinners, a minor league team of the Boston Red Sox.
Mr. Weber recently took the young men on a shopping spree to purchase suits, shirts and ties. The well-dressed young men are part of the YouthBuild Lowell program which is operated by Community Teamwork Inc.
Mr. Weber was having lunch with staff members from the program and they spoke about a young man in the program who enjoyed wearing a suit. "He was wearing it every day and they said, ' you can't just keep wearing it every day,' " Weber said. "And he said, ' Well, people are looking at me differently. I really feel good about myself.' And all of a sudden the light bulb went off in my head." To YouthBuild participants, the suits open a door to a professional world. "I was grateful because he did that from his heart," said 17-year-old Abdel Santos. Emanuel Santana, 20, picked out a gray suit with a purple shirt and tie. "He wanted us to look nice when we go to job interviews," Santana said.
The young men started out with some pretty crazy colors, Weber said, but he ruled out a few items that were "a little bit over the top."
Weber is particularly well suited to give clothing expertise -- before buying the Lowell Spinners, he ran a clothing store in New York City.
But for him, baseball has also opened a new door.
"I always said one of the most fun things about doing what I do is being able to do things like this," he said. "Before I got into baseball, I didn't do things like this. And now I do, and it's a lot more fun doing it than not doing it."
This experience had a profound impact on the young men involved. They met someone was interested in their success and willing to take some time and effort make their lives better. Community support is an essential part of every YouthBuild program. Drew Weber is living proof of that!
Thanks to the Lowell Sun for parts of this story-
Having completed a year at YouthBuild Lawrence, thirty young people from the class of 2014 celebrated their accomplishments during a ceremony held with families, friends and dignitaries. The successful students were: Heriberto Alvarado, Julio Amezaga, Jessenia Aponte, Lorraine Aponte, Joseph Benitez, Rosemary Cabrera, Alejandro Calderon, Robert Connearney, Francisco Cortes, Joshua Davila, Julio Gil, Felicia Gomes, Joseph Gomez, Maria Gonzales, Luis Hiraldo, Destiny Iorio, Joshua Machado, Arleny Matias, Syliane Mede, Daniel Morales, Juan Carlos Negron, Denis Orellano, Jorvanny Ortiz, Kayla Perez, Magalis Ponce, Marilyn Rivera, Jonairi Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Idolina Ruiz and Jose Vasquez.
A number of public officials offered words of congratulations as well as encouragements to the graduates. Mayor Daniel Rivera spoke to the students. He has been involved with the program throughout the year. He was even interviewed by several of the students for a story that was published in the YB Lawrence Newsletter, Orange Wheeler Clip. Mayor Rivera talked to the students about his background as well as some of the decisions that he must make in his role as the Mayor of a major city. They also were able to relate to the mayor as he spoke about the ways in which he volunteers his time to help others in the city.
The keynote address was delivered by Wendy Taylor, the Lead Education and Career Counselor at the Collaborative for Educational Services for the Department of Youth Services. Her address echoed the thoughts of the evening, for the students to use the skills developed in the program to build a positive and productive future. She also spoke about the importance of a YouthBuild program in providing a positive atmosphere for young people who are looking to rebuild their lives through education and skill development.
Modesto Maldonado, President of the Lawrence City Council also offered his congratulations on behalf of the city of Lawrence. His heartfelt words of encouragement urged the students to move on from this accomplishment as a part of the journey they are on in building a successful future. Each of the students was presented with a citation from the city of Lawrence honoring their achievements. There was also a word of advice to make a reduced size copy to include with their resumes as they enter the world of work.
One person who has become a familiar face at YouthBuild Lawrence Completion ceremonies is State Representative, Frank Moran. Rep. Moran has attended for the past three years and has been a strong supporter of YouthBuild in the State Legislature. He emphasized the importance of the skills that were learned through their participation in the YouthBuild program. He also presented a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives signed by Rep. Moran and the Speaker of the House.
Graduate Luis Hiraldo was presented with the Leadership Award for the 2014 Class. He spoke enthusiastically to his peers about the accomplishments they had all made during the year. In addition to the award that was presented to Luis, other awards were presented to students in the areas of education, construction, community service and leadership. These awards were presented to the students by various staff members.
A special acknowledgement is given to the work of Director, April Lyskowsky and the staff at YB Lawrence who have put together such a successful program offered to the students participating in this quality program. The success of these students is a testimony to the dedication, knowledge and ingenuity of this first-rate staff!
Recently, the Training Resources of America Quincy YouthBuild program celebrated a successful completion were students at their graduation ceremony. Joined by family and friends, students were able to celebrate their accomplishments during this very eventful year, knowing that they had taken a step forward developing a productive future.
The featured speaker at this event was Representative Tacky Chan who represents Quincy in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Rep. Chan has been an avid supporter of the YouthBuild programming Quincy as well as YouthBuild across Massachusetts. It was very fitting that he speak to the students on this important day!
More than 130 at-risk youths will have the opportunity to participate in alternative education programs in Lowell and Lawrence while mastering critical job skills, thanks to more than $2 million in grant funding from the US Department of Labor.
Community Teamwork in Lowell last week received a $1,067,145 grant for its YouthBuild of Greater Lowell program. YouthBuild Lawrence AmeriCorps, an affiliate of the Lawrence Family Development & Education Fund, received a $1.1 million grant, the largest amount to be awarded by the Department of Labor during this round of funding.
“We are thrilled to have qualified for Department of Labor funding based on the quality of our programming and the need in our community,” said Community Teamwork executive director Karen N. Frederick.
The Department of Labor funds 322 YouthBuild programs across the country. The latest round of funding awarded $74 million to 71 programs nationwide. The grants ranged from $700,000 to $1.1 million.
YouthBuild provides classes that lead to a high school or other state recognized diploma and industry recognized certifications in construction and other fields, including health care and information technology. Leadership are key components of YouthBuild. The goal is to help young people complete their education and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
“Community Teamwork’s YouthBuild Program provides hope for some of the most vulnerable young people in the Greater Lowell area,” Frederick said. “This funding not only supports critical education and vocational training, but, equally importantly, provides young people a place to belong and an opportunity to connect to their community in a new way.”
The federal grants will support the local programs for two years, according to a statement released by US Representative Niki Tsongas, who presented the checks to the Lowell and Lawrence YouthBuild groups.
“Since I came to Congress, I’ve advocated for funding for YouthBuild because I’ve seen firsthand how it provides opportunities for so many young people, giving them a second chance to succeed and to find a new sense of self,” Tsongas said in a statement emailed to the Globe.
YouthBuild is a community based alternative education program that provides classroom instruction and occupational skills training to youths ages 16 to 24 who have been in the juvenile justice system, are aging out of foster care, have dropped out of high school, or are otherwise at risk of failing to reach educational and career milestones.
“YouthBuild isn’t just about helping individuals; it’s about building a better community,” Tsongas said.
The Lawrence program, now in its 20th year, will include 68 participants over the next two years; the Lowell program will have 70, according to Michael Hartigan, a spokesman for Tsongas.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” said April Lyskowsky, program director for YouthBuild Lawrence. “With this funding, we’ll be able to continue to build capacity and continue our services in the community.”
According to Lyskowsky, there are 34 youths currently enrolled in the program who are expected to graduate in December. Over the years, YouthBuild Lawrence has helped about 400 young men and women who are committed to improving their lives, who “come to the program every day, no matter what challenges they may be facing,” she said.
Students in the Lawrence program are currently helping to build a single-family home on West Street. When completed, it will be sold to a low-income, first-time home buyer.