Despite a delay of one week due to a snowstorm, the 19th annual YouthBuild Day at the State House took place on March 11th. Normally this event is held in Great Hall. However, in light of the date change, that room was unavailable. Nevertheless, in a demonstration of true YouthBuild flexibility, the entire day was revamped and we were fortunate to be able to hold our session in the House Chamber. Each of the programs had one of their students lead their entire group in the pledge that has become a YouthBuild tradition.
After this portion of the program was completed, another tradition of State House Day took place. For more than 10 years, Representative Byron Rushing of Boston has delivered his annual "Welcome to the State House", when he electrifies the audience in his own unique manner. Representative Rushing has served in the House since 1983 and has risen to the position of Majority Whip. Most of the YouthBuild students have never been inside the State House before this visit and are not quite sure what to expect. Our students quickly learn that despite his position of authority, he has a sincere interest in their needs and their futures.
Representative Rushing lets everyone in the room know that this is their house and they need to have a say on what goes on there. He lets everyone know that their job is to tell their story and he encourages them to do that enthusiastically. It is a great way to start the day for this leadership experience that our students are about to undertake.
With encouragement from our Master of Ceremonies, Angel Diaz from New Bedford, the students proceeded to speak to their elected officials about the importance of YouthBuild to them personally. They also delivered the message that there are many others like them who will need YB services in the future. Students moved about the building in small groups accompanied by staff to spread their message of hope and promise in the future. There is an understanding among all of the YouthBuild students that this effort is about more than just them as individuals and their programs. This day gives them a very visual picture of the impact of YouthBuild across Massachusetts.