McKaila, tell us a little bit about your background, how you got involved in YouthBuild, and what your experience with the program was like.
My Name is McKaila Coulter and I am from YouthBuild New Bedford. When I entered YouthBuild my last grade completed was 8th. I went to high school for a year but I got sick due to medical conditions and my high school just sent me a letter saying I was no longer a student. I grew up with my mom, a single mother who worked two jobs. School was never easy for me and I was often sick and going from babysitter to babysitter. When I got that letter I was beyond depressed, then one day my mother told me I was going to be starting YouthBuild in the fall. I had never heard of YouthBuild before and I was extremely nervous.
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.
You graduated in 2011, what are you doing now? Have you chosen a career path? What are your goals for the future?
I am now 18 years old and an assistant store manager for GameStop. I am also taking a couple of classes at BCC, I am in the community leadership program. My dream would be to work for World Wrestling Entertainment, then work in the criminal justice field while volunteering and hopefully helping YouthBuild New Bedford make my city a better place to live.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at YouthBuild? Does anything in particular stand out?
I have so many great memories of my year there, but my favorite moment was when they did a Thanksgiving dinner for all the students before break, this was great for three reasons. The first being that the food was amazing; homemade food was a rarity in my life. Second being I got to actually eat Thanksgiving dinner with people, another thing I rarely got to do. Third and the most important reason of all was, while eating dinner another student sitting across from me looked at me and said, “This is the best meal ever, I haven’t had this in years.” I laughed and asked, “How come?” he then said, “because I’ve been in jail for four years.” I got really happy when I heard this; it was nice to be sharing a meal with someone who also greatly appreciated it. It was also amazing to know that he was changing his life and that there were people there to help him change!
What advice could you offer to students enrolled in the program now?
As for advice my biggest thing I can tell people is they have to be open. The staff is going to push you, but they are doing it to make you better, to make your future better!
If you or someone you know is a Massachusetts YouthBuild graduate interested in sharing his/her YouthBuild story with our staff, students and supporters, contact Ted Vrountas at firstname.lastname@example.org