John came to Ulster YouthBuild in 1997 as a shy high school dropout and father of an infant son at just 16 years old. His father was incarcerated and his relationship with his mother was unstable, John needed help to change the direction of his life.
In YouthBuild, John was able to prepare for his High School Equivalency Diploma (HSE) while also receiving practical training in a field that sparked his interest. In NYS you cannot take your HSE exam until the age of 18 unless you are enrolled in a program such as YouthBuild and as a new father, John couldn’t wait. He saw that the skills he was learning in YouthBuild could be applied to a career and began taking the steps to build that career.
One year later, at the time of his graduation from YouthBuild, John had earned his HSE Diploma and landed a job as an entry-level carpenter at a local housing construction company. Two years later John returned to YouthBuild to work as the Construction Site Trainer’s assistant and enjoyed working with students who were in similar positions that he once was. John had decided he wanted to open his own construction company and needed more skills. He went on to take an electrical training class and work at a local home heating oil company to gain more experience in his field.
In 2003, John opened his own company, Vision Builders, which specializes in residential building, roofing, siding, windows, doors, porches, and decks, John utilizes the skills he honed in YouthBuild including job interview techniques, leadership qualities, customer service, and of course, construction.
John credits the skills he learned from YouthBuild with helping him achieve his goals; “During leadership development training, we were coached on how to adapt to different environments, which is important because so much of my job depends on people skills and how I present my services to potential customers. Upon completion of the program, I was well prepared to pursue my goals. Though I encountered setbacks, with the solid foundation I have from YouthBuild, rising up and surpassing those setbacks was a challenge I eagerly accepted.”
John is still running his now successful company, owns a house and is the father of 4 children. He proudly credits YouthBuild with helping him to overcome his difficulties and to pursue his dreams.
In 2016, John came back to Ulster YouthBuild to take on the position of Construction Site Coordinator. He is giving back to the program and providing excellent housing construction skills to the current trainees as well as being a phenomenal role model for them.
In 1999 a 19 year old, transient, high school dropout found her way into the Ulster YouthBuild program. Jessica was a runaway at age 16, emancipated by the family court at age 17, living on her own with no way to support herself, and no hope for the future. She came to YouthBuild simply because she wasn’t doing anything else; she was not prepared for what happened next.
In YouthBuild Jessica was challenged by the supportive staff to step up and work harder, to do things that she never thought she could. Growing up in an abusive household Jessica never received positive reinforcement and was always led to believe that she was a failure and would never be more than that. Her classroom teacher pushed her and told her she was smart enough to pass her HSE exam, her construction trainer pushed her and told her she could format the design of a house. She didn’t believe them, but they wouldn’t give up so she kept on going and she did both.
Through the constant support, the leadership development training, the job readiness training, and the HSE preparation offered at YouthBuild, Jessica began to see her worth and started to accomplish her goals. Jessica graduated from YouthBuild and received her HSE Diploma and went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. She currently works with “at risk youth” and is an active member of the local Ulster County Youth Council.
Jessica credits her success and community involvement to YouthBuild, “The constant support and encouragement of the YouthBuild staff kept me from giving up when I most wanted to. The leadership development training helped me to realize my worth and my potential, it gave me the skills needed to speak up and become an active member in my community. Learning how to write a resume, fill out a job application, or passing an exam is not enough to be successful, you need to have leadership qualities in order to take charge of your life and have the stick-to-itiveness to reach your goals, YouthBuild gave me that.”