October 3, 2017

YouthBuild GraduationThe Great Falls YouthBuild (GFYB) Class of 2017's Graduation and Awards Ceremony was held on Friday, September 29th at Passaic County Community College. It marked--and celebrated--the students' completion of the year-long program.

NJCDC's GFYB program provides a meaningful "second chance" for area youth and young adults to earn their diplomas and a construction industry-recognized certificate in an effort to help them find long-term, living-wage jobs. Based on a national model, the year-long program empowers youth to rebuild themselves as they rebuild their communities through a combination of work, education, service, and leadership development. Since 1998, PGFYB has served nearly 500 at-risk youth ages 16-24.

YouthBuild GraduationFor the 54 graduates of GFYB's Class of 2017, the best is yet to come. Fifty students successfully completed their Pre Apprentice Certificate Training in Construction and 21 students have successfully enrolled into post-secondary education/training or have secured employment. Thus far 23 students have successfully earned their High School Equivalency Diplomas, and program staff will continue to work with those who haven't.

At the Ceremony, students were welcomed by PGFYB's Program Director Ashiri Lopez and NJCDC's Deputy Chief Program Officer Barry Ford. Rashard Mills, Assistant Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) at Fairleigh Dickinson University, spoke to the students about EOF, which provides financial assistance and support services to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who will attend colleges and universities in the State of New Jersey.

YouthBuild GraduationFour GFYB graduates of the Class of 2017, Luis Sazo, Nahciir Benbow, Kydera Taft, and Jasmine Camacho, spoke about their experiences in the program. Kydera Taft said, "If it wasn't for the staff, and me and what I did for myself, I wouldn't have been here. I just thank everybody for just being here for me. I made a family here at YouthBuild." Next, distinguished alumna Dominique Morris addressed the crowd.

Afterwards, Salutatorian Monese Jones and Co-Valedictorians Marcel Francis and Vilmarie DeLeon were recognized for their programmatic achievements. Marc-Damon Smith, GFYB's Youth Development Coordinator, posthumously graduated Ka'Sir Davis, who was sadly killed in an incident of gun violence in Paterson in February of this year. Ashiri Lopez and Randy Lawson, GFYB's Construction Coordinator, then presented the graduates to the enthusiastic crowd, which included the graduates' friends and families.

NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci said, "We're celebrating the Great Falls YouthBuild Class of 2017 not only for their achievements in the program, but also for their resiliency. These youth have shown that nothing can hold them back."

A new class of over 60 YouthBuild students will begin the next cycle of the program this week.

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