[Hpn] Program Builds Up Youths

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sat, 18 Jun 2005 13:32:06 -0400


Program builds up youths

Work, learning are aim of instruction.

By PAMELA MULUMBY of the Tribune’s staff

Published Saturday, June 18, 2005

A few years ago, the future appeared bleak for 20-year-old Fred Kemp. He was
in and out prison after dropping out of high school and had not held a job
more than six months.
Today, Kemp has bounced back and wants to turn his life around, thanks to
the Columbia Builds Youth program, or CBY.
"I was sent out of class for discipline problems," Kemp said of his high
school years. "I set a trash can on fire at Hickman High School in November
2002 and was sent to prison for arson. I made bad choices in the past, and
now I just want to change my ways."
Philip Timmons, a 16-year-old high school dropout, also is in CBY. Often
unable to stay out of trouble in the past, he said he’s determined to change
his ways and lead a decent life.
"I want my parents to be proud of me," he said. "I want to be an asset to
them, hold a steady job and eventually join the military."
Every youth in CBY has a story to tell. Burdened by social ills such as
domestic abuse and homelessness, the CBY youths’ goal is self-sufficiency.
CBY is part of YouthBuild USA, a nationwide network of 200 federally
financed programs that aim to rescue youths from otherwise hopeless futures,
train them and help them secure jobs in the construction industry.
Open to youths 16 to 24, the local program is managed by Job Point, a
not-for-profit that provides vocational assessments, job training and
placement services.
During the next nine months, Kemp and five other youths will learn about
using tools and practice construction.
The program is funded by a $700,000 grant to Job Point from the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development.
CBY recruits youths through partner agencies, clients, junior high school
counselors and citizen referrals. First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton
pioneered the program two years ago and has helped in recruitment.
CBY’s goal is to encourage economic independence. The training consists of
equal portions of classroom instruction and on-site job training.
Program participants are taught good work ethics, problem-solving skills,
communication and team-building skills. Part of the classroom activities
include GED instruction for dropouts and academic improvement for
participants with a high school diploma. Classes are held at Job Point’s
main facility, 400 Wilkes Blvd.
The HUD grant provides a stipend of $5.15 per hour to each student while on
a job site plus an additional $66.66 during each of the first three months’
participation for attending classes. The monthly compensation for classes
rises to $83.33 in the fourth through sixth months and to $100 in the
seventh through ninth months.
"We’re trying to provide direction to these youths and help them change
their lives," said Gary Taylor, CBY program director. "Over 75 percent of
them drop out of school, have unstable housing, criminal backgrounds, and
some of them are on probation and parole."
"Construction is a field that is booming right now," Taylor said. "It takes
a short time to train but carries with it the largest economic benefits. One
can go from making nothing to making $13 or $14 an hour."
Since the program’s inception two years ago, 23 inner-city youths have
graduated from the program, and CBY has helped them find jobs. CBY also
conducts follow-up contacts for at least a year and encourages students to
give back to the program.
"We encourage graduates to come back to the program and serve as role models
to new students," Taylor said.
"Construction work is hard, but the benefits are immeasurable," program
instructor David Johnson told students. "But if you prepare yourself
mentally and physically, then you will make it. If you are dependable,
reliable and hard-working, then the employers will do everything to retain
you and give you an opportunity to grow."
CBY received $40,000 this year from the city of Columbia.
Crayton is positive that the program is serving its purpose.
"We want these youths to rebuild their lives and help build their
community," she said. "This program is teaching community and leadership,
and I would like to see it extended."

Reach Pamela Mulumby at (573) 815-1711 or  pmulumby@tribmail.com.

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