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Monday, May 23, 2016

Ulster YouthBuild program helps young people turn life around | Daily Freeman

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"At one point in his young life, Isaiah Heil felt like his teachers had given up on him and he ended up dropping out of school and selling drugs." inform Ariél Zangla.

Andrew Pulver, left, and Isaiah Heil, stack wood into piles behind the shed at the YMCA in Kingston. 
Photo: Tania Barricklo-Daily Freeman

Then the 16-year-old from Kingston learned about a program called Ulster YouthBuild. He said joining that program turned his life around and gave him confidence in himself.

“They never gave up on me,” Heil said recently. He said he now has goals in his life, which include getting his high school equivalency degree and becoming an electrician or going to work in construction.

Ulster YouthBuild has been in operation since 1994 and is part of a nationwide program that works with out-of-school young people between the ages of 16 and 24. Interested youth apply to the program and must undergo a three-week mental toughness orientation. Those youth who are chosen receive the opportunity to earn their high school equivalency degree and learn a trade.

“The whole philosophy of the program is to re-engage them into education,” program Executive Director Bonnie Landi said. She said the program utilizes the five components of education, construction, leadership development, job placement and counseling. Landi said the program also teaches its youth life skills and helps them overcome any barriers that might stand in the way of their success. She said the program is about presenting the youth with opportunities.

Landi said Ulster YouthBuild works with 27 young people at a time, each of who stays in the program between six and 12 months. During that time, the participants are split into two teams and spend one week in the classroom and one week working on a construction site.

Recently, the Kingston city Common Council sold a home on Susan Street to the YMCA for $1. As part of their construction component, Ulster YouthBuild participants will renovate that home, which will then be sold to a low-income, first-time homebuyer...

Since it started, Ulster YouthBuild has completed work on 22 homes, all of which were sold to first-time homebuyers. The program participants also created the shower complex at the Rondout waterfront that is used by boaters and installed a new roof on the VFW hall on East Chester Street, amongst other projects.

On the education side, the participants were working on designing a treehouse idea for someone in Western New York.

Hocking said the project integrates the participants’ curriculum and gets them involved in their education. She said the treehouse project has the theme of “Galileo’s Observatory,” so the youth are using science and math to design the structure, but are also learning about civic issue such as zoning laws. Hocking said the youth are also learning about Galileo himself and about different astronomy theories.

While the program works to help its participants earn their high school equivalency degrees, a small percentage can already be high school graduates, Landi said. She said they must, however, have a basic skill deficiency.

Source: The Daily Freeman

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