By Laura Robinson
Recently I had the opportunity to visit YouthCare’s YouthBuild with Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell. YouthCare is a Seattle-based organization committed to transforming the lives of homeless and at-risk youth. Their model of care is based around three critical steps: engage, stabilize and prepare. The third step assists young people in gaining the skills (employment training, GED prep, college access) necessary for rewarding futures.
YouthCare partners with South Seattle College, where YouthCare’s YouthBuild, one of YouthCare’s employment training programs is operated. The program specifically prepares young people for careers in construction – particularly useful given Seattle’s current growth explosion. Through the South Seattle College partnership, students are able to earn up to 32 college credits through their participation. The program runs for six months at a time, with nearly 20 students enrolled every cycle.
This program teaches technical construction skills along with critical intangibles like personal confidence, trust and hope. The accomplishments of the program are evident within its hallways. Photos of graduates working in union apprenticeships hang on the walls. Smiles, laughter, and shy confidence are evident in the faces of current students. YouthCare is in the business of restoring hope – by teaching tangible skills, but also through recognizing each young person as an individual capable of great things.
YouthCare is helping young people to know themselves, trust themselves and believe in their own abilities to achieve success. The dedication and enthusiasm of the staff at YouthCare’s YouthBuild is matched only by the commitment and enthusiasm of the students themselves.
As we entered the building for our visit, each student came forward for introductions and then quickly fell into what appeared to be a typical routine – good natured and rowdy competition around construction work stations. The main construction room is filled with structures that challenge and evaluate students on different skills. One wall is filled with tools that students add to their personal tool belts as they develop proficiency with each one. One student proudly described how he started late in the program, but now had more tools than anyone else on his belt. Councilmembers Bagshaw and Harrell were guided expertly by students through the stations.
LaTroy Hayman, a recent graduate of YouthCare’s YouthBuild is now an apprentice with the Construction Industry Training Council (CITC) on their carpenter’s apprentice track. Beyond his apprenticeship, LaTroy is a community activist and very involved in getting the word out to other young people about the program. One young man credited LaTroy’s enthusiasm and outreach for getting him to join the program. YouthCare’s Youthbuild provided support and development of LaTroy’s gifts for activism and community leadership, and continues to do so with all the students.
Program graduates go on to many opportunities – many opting for apprenticeships in local unions. And because of Seattle’s recent Priority Hire ordinance, future graduates will have the opportunity to work on city-financed construction projects – an important way our city makes an investment in young people. The program has a graduation rate of over 80% (higher than the national average in YouthBuild programs) and an abundance of positive energy and success stories.
Through construction skills, young people gain confidence and pride in their ability to complete a job. Beyond that, the young men and women at YouthCare’s YouthBuild create community in their classrooms and workspaces. This shared community allows students the security, safety and support to imagine new possibilities for themselves, while recognizing their own unique gifts – LaTroy’s talent for activism and outreach, to name just one.
Trust, friendship and hope are built in this program – a far-reach network graduates can rely on for support well into their futures. By supporting YouthCare’s YouthBuild, we are supporting a better future for youth and our community as a whole. And by supporting YouthCare’s Youthbuild, we build hope for the future. Let’s make that a priority.
To learn more about supporting YouthCare or volunteer opportunities, please visit Youthcare.org.