By Margaret Sponholz
Summer vacation is right around the corner. While some teens are throwing their graduation caps in the air, others watch in the distance. Some are students who have disabilities or had run-ins with the law. Others are students who have had problems at home and put school on the backburner.
Whatever the scenario, a diploma or GED is a necessity in post-education. Whether it is going to college, joining the military or finding a job the high school diploma is a passport to adulthood.
YouthBuild is an alternative initiative to help those in Milwaukee to achieve their GED and learn skills to aid in a career.
YouthBuild is open to people ages 16-24 that have not earned a high school diploma. Applicants also have to meet at least one of the following criteria: has been convicted of a crime, has a documented disability, has been in foster care, has low income, has parents who are migrant farm workers or has a parent in jail. During the program, participants learn construction skills and spend time working towards a GED, or General Educational Development, which is equivalent to a high school diploma. An interest in the trades is not required.
Without a high school education, it can be difficult to find work. Milwaukee Christian Center Youth- Build Coordinator Lois Nugent said that people who do not have a diploma often are not considered when they apply for a job.
YouthBuild gives people a second chance to learn work ethic and basic skills that are important for any job, such as punctuality. The project prepares participants for employment, and many graduates of the program go on to work apprenticeships and jobs in the trades.
Nugent said that during the program, participants become interested in their own success and value the faith that the program leaders have in them.
“They learn that someone cares for the first time in their lives,” said Nugent. “They often say ‘Finally, someone believes in me.’ These are young people who are very intelligent but have dropped out of school for a whole lot of reasons.”
According to Nugent, YouthBuild prepares people to become contributors to the economy rather than being unemployed.
While learning construction work, people in Youth- Build make houses in the inner city for families with low to moderate income. They build two new houses each session, which gives people the opportunity to become a homeowner when they might not be able to otherwise. When these houses are built, it can inspire neighbors to improve their own property too, according to Nugent.
There are YouthBuild programs at multiple locations in Milwaukee, including the Milwaukee Christian Center, Northcott Neighborhood House, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College. Around 20 people sign up for each Youth- Build session and each session lasts for seven to twelve months, depending on how long it takes to complete the goals of the program.
Registration for MATC’s YouthBuild initiative is open until June 8. Anyone interested in signing up can contact Kevin Turner at (414) 647-0548 or kturner@journeyhouse. org or Derick Cornelius at (414) 297-6796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.