YouthBuild: Building bright futures

June 16, 2009 4:08:05 PM PDT
Philadelphia's YouthBuild program will soon go green.

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For years, students in Philadelphia's YouthBuild program have been building houses for grateful homeowners. But they have also been building strong foundations for their own futures.

Action News was in North Philadelphia today as YouthBuild participants toured a home they recently renovated on Newkirk Street.

Eric Eason is a proud and excited YouthBuild charter school student who helped turn the deteriorating shell into a desirable low-income home. "YouthBuild is all about love at the end of the day," he said. "It is teamwork, effort, commitment."

YouthBuild students are former dropouts who now alternate weeks in the classroom and in the field learning home rebuilding and related vocational trades.

The students' $100,000 home renovations are funded through grants, and YouthBuild students are paid as general contractors. A ribbon cutting ceremony today signaled that one is sale-ready.

"I've learned so much from working with you for both my personal and professional future," said YouthBuild participant Felicia Wilder told organizers.

The builders-in-training get a chance to see themselves in a stronger light, and in a way that helps them build a better future.

"My experience at YouthBuild made me realize how much I can accomplish," said participant Robin Knight.

"When young people build houses like this, it builds their character," said author and motivational speaker Solomon Jones. "When young people come and build a house like this, it builds their confidence."

Potential buyer Cherisse Reid is grateful. Once financing is approved, the 41-year-old school bus driver hopes to move her 4- and 5-year-old daughter and son from their one-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom YouthBuild dream home.

"I know they will be very pleased and delighted," she said. "They were like, 'Mommy, we're going to have an upstairs and a downstairs! We have never lived in a house!'"

Next year, YouthBuild goes green with a solar rebuild as it continues preparing young people for bright futures.

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