Q: How was your life different before YBL?
A: I was in jail for almost a year and a half. When I first entered the jail, I was scared, confused, nervous, and mad all at the same time. I keep to myself and I didn’t talk to anyone. All your left to do in jail is think and try to enjoy your time. They offered classes to earn your GED but I had no interest in doing school work in a jail. It sounded miserable.
Q: What brought you to YBL? How did you hear about us?
A: I heard about YBL when I first got out of jail. I was in a program that helped me get my own apartment as a felon and someone there suggested YBL to me since I needed my diploma.
Q: Why do you think YouthBuild was a good fit for you?
A: I actually wasn’t sure if YBL was a good fit for me when I started. I gave it a shot because I had no other options and nothing to lose.
Q: What did you accomplish at YouthBuild?
A: I accomplished so much. Not only quantitative accomplishments. I matured and took on more responsibility. The staff made me think more positively about life and my future. I also learned how to manage my money. I never knew I had worth in me until the staff taught me how I could accomplish my goals. I earned my PACT, OSHA 10, HAZCOM, Fork Lift, PPE, and a computer literacy certificate. I also earned my GED and I was one of the students picked to go to France to learn gardening in King Louie’s kitchen garden. YBL helped me testify in court to go out of the country as a felon.
Q: What have you accomplished since graduating? Schooling? Work? Volunteering?
A: While I was in JCYC, the mayor came and talked to the youth. When I talked to him on-on-one, he said he would help me achieve my goals once I was out of jail. I didn’t see the mayor again until he came to YBL for an event. I asked if he remembered me although I know he wouldn’t. He acted as he did anyway, as a mayor would do, and I reminded him of the promise he made to me while I was in jail. Kristen, who works at KYCC (teaches love notes at YBL), told me about Code Louisville because she knew I was interested in coding and software engineering. I applied right away but I was left on the waiting list for months. When I saw the mayor, I asked if he could get me into the program. He said he would put someone named Destin in charge of it. The next day rolls around and I get a call from Code Louisville. Since then, I completed my 4-month training with Code Louisville while working two jobs, and now I work for a software company called Interapt.
Q: What's your 5-year game plan/goal? or at least an idea of what you want to accomplish in the next 5 years.
A: I have a lot of goals I want to accomplish in the next 5 years. My job has set me on track to make an annual salary of $60,000 at a minimum. I plan on working hard to stay with my job. I’d like to have my car fully paid off. I’ll be enrolling in college in January and I plan to double major in computer science and business management. My longer-term goals are to set up a trust and will and own two homes, one in Louisville, and one for vacations.
Q: What else would you like to share about yourself? Your values? A favorite quote? Your mantra?
A: “If you don’t find your purpose then you are wasting air, forget it though you all are scared.” This song lyric reminds me of what is important in life and that you have to take risks, face your fears, and endure pain to reach your goals.
Q: What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome?
A: The greatest obstacle was believing in myself. Point A was where I was and Point B was where I wanted to be and YBL was the stepping stone and gave me the tools to reach point B. I thought it was impossible for someone like me to be a doctor, lawyer, or professional, I thought death was the most realistic future for me.
Q: What advice do you have for incoming students?
A: YBL is a place where you can have mentors in your life that care about you and your future. They help you get one foot out of the streets. You can be someone who ends the cycle of poverty and violence. Do not be a follower, be a leader of change for yourself and your community.
Q: What has been your proudest moment?
A: I have more to lose now and I understand how my actions affect everyone around me. I always want to show off YBL because they remind me why I am proud of who I am.
Q: What brought you to YouthBuild Louisville?
A: Realizing my life was passing me by and I didn’t have anything positive that I could say I did in the years prior. Moving back to Louisville felt like a second chance at life and I took that and ran. Honestly, before YouthBuild, I didn't have any structure, motivation, or any positive support.
Q: What's your 5-year game plan/goal? or at least an idea of what you want to accomplish in 5 years.
A: My main focus and goal is to achieve as much education as possible. I want to earn my GED, go to KCTCS for 2 years, and graduate from U of L. All I have to do is decide what my studies will be. Once I've picked what I'm going to study, I want to start my career and learn as much as I can about that thing and put my all into it. Hopefully, once I'm educated and financially secure, I can volunteer at a Youthbuild or Boys and Girls club. I just want to give back once I'm stable if that makes sense.
Q: How is YouthBuild helping you achieve your goals/what have you accomplished at YouthBuild?
A: Well since I've been at YBL I've earned half my GED and I'm no longer dealing with homelessness, which those are/were my top 2 and I've accomplished one and I'm halfway to my other goal so whos to say what will come out of the time that I have with YBL.
Q: How could YouthBuild do more to help you achieve your goals?
A: Honestly, and I don't think I could be any more honest then I've been in my entire life, The staff at YBL go above and beyond to help not only me and my classmates but even the people who’ve aged out or don't wanna commit. So nothing, they’re perfect.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most at YBL?
A: All of the learning opportunities that YBL has to offer and all the resources and opportunities to come. The people I may meet, the people I may get to help, the communities and the families that I may get to help and see.
Q: What’s the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome?
A: Homelessness since 17. Many times I've wanted to give up or many times I would have lost my life because I was not saved, and I'm still here kicking, screaming, and fighting my way to the top.
Q: What has been your proudest moment?
A: I have a few: when I got my acceptance letter to YBL, when I passed my 2 GED tests, and when I got my apartment.
Q: What advice do you have for incoming students?
A: If you don't really want it and don't plan on working for it, let someone who does want it, have the spot. YBL isn't going anywhere and is ready and willing whenever you're ready.
Q: What else would you like to share about yourself? Your values? A favorite quote? Your mantra?
A: The last thing I want to share is that I've never felt so loved by so many people genuinely. I've never felt this much love and support in my entire 20 years of life, and I never knew how important support and genuine love really is to a person. My favorite quote is “keep your head up”, I don’t know who said it but it gets me through some hard times. My mantra would have to be “Everything happens for a reason” because it's true, Life won't give you anything you can't handle.
Anthony Harvey Jr.
Anthony Harvey Jr. is one of our five Urban Conservation Corps (UCC) members who started in August of this year. So far, Anthony has prepared for jobs in landscaping, insulation, and water waste management through hands-on training and Roots of Success Curriculum. The most interesting environmental fact he has learned this year was about West Virginia residents who are getting cancer due to the burning of coal in their cities. Also, the resident’s fossil fuel consumption in Kentucky has a direct effect on the residents in West Virginia. The combination of hands-on training and Roots of Success Curriculum has influenced his concern for the environment and his motivation to be a part of the green sector movement.
Anthony heard about YouthBuild Louisville (YBL) through many of his neighborhood friends. He wanted to start his career pursuits in a program that would help him focus on what interests him, and he figured YBL was his best option. Anthony loves to work hard and enjoys motivating people to work hard. Anthony’s short term goal after completing the UCC program is to get into the union and gain more green construction work experience. His long-term goal is to own his own green construction and landscaping business. Green construction meaning he would use recyclable materials to build structures for his clients. For the rest of his UCC service, he is looking forward to applying for the France trip the most. He believes he has a strong case for getting a chance to work in the King's Kitchen Garden in France because of everything UCC has taught him.
Anthony enjoys playing basketball and video games and exercises in his free time. His advice for incoming students is to work hard if they want to succeed in the YBL program. Something he has learned the most at YouthBuild is teamwork, specifically how to work with different personalities. “Teamwork makes the dreamwork.” is Anthony’s motto. Most importantly, he wants future students to have fun and make the most out of what YBL offers. YBL can help students with any career they are interested in.
Joseph Magruder, 2019 YouthBuild graduate, was chosen for our Student Spotlight. He accomplished many feats this past year and has ultimately found a career in electrical work.
Joseph or Joe for short, grew up in Louisville his whole life. He was a honors student at Olmsted Middle and participated in many extracurricular activities like quick recall and band. Later in his high school career is when his life took a turn. He made friends that lived a dangerous lifestyle and started to adopt that lifestyle himself. He enjoyed the freedom that came with that lifestyle but hated the fear. He wanted a better life and sought for stability but with so many defeats, he eventually became comfortable and thought this lifestyle was his only option.
Joe’s mother was the biggest advocate when it came to Joe changing his lifestyle. Joe said one night his mother prayed that he would be gifted with an opportunity to change his life. The next day, she received an email about YouthBuild’s Mental Toughness Orientation. She knew that was Joe’s calling and set him up right away. At first he was hesitant, but since he was being paid by YouthBuild, he knew he could at least try it out. Joe moved back home and began the process of changing his life around. His mother refused to see his potential go to waste. Ever since Joe enrolled in YouthBuild, he found a sense of direction; he saw the multitude of possibilities for the future and became invested in changing his lifestyle for the better.
While at YouthBuild Joe earned his High School Diploma, and received many certificates; Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Certificate, HAZCOM, Customer Service Certificate, Kentucky Employability Skills Certificate, CPR, and his OSHA 10 Certificate. He also was chosen to travel with YouthBuild to Belize, to build house for a homeless family, and France, to work in King Louie’s Kitchen Garden. He went beyond expectation and because of his outstanding dedication to work and his community, Joe was offered a 3 month internship with Xpert Design & Construction which led him to his current Job with Goodfellas Electric. Finally, Joe can envision a more positive future for him and his family.
His long term goal is to earn a degree in environmental science and his short term goal is to learn how to drive. What Joe valued the most about YouthBuild was meeting new friends and gaining a stable job.
Muslimo, or ‘Mo’ for short, has overcome adverse circumstances and flourished during her time at YouthBuild, which is why she is our Student Spotlight! Mo came to YouthBuild wanting to complete her High School Diploma because she had a tough time completing her diploma during her formal education, due to not having the right support system that could assist her with balancing her life as a mother and a student at the same time. Once she got on her feet, she applied to YouthBuild to spark a change in her and her son’s life.
When Mo entered our program, she was a very shy and quiet person. She said it took her time to build up the courage to complete school. She used to question if she was making the right choice by coming to YouthBuild. This changed once she realized that YouthBuild would give her the confidence and resources she needed to reach all the goals she dreamed of. Earning certificates and gaining better communication skills helped Mo believe in herself. She also attributes her success to words of encouragement from her new YouthBuild family and close friends.
After gaining the confidence she needed, Mo completed her GED in December. In the process of completing it, she also completed her OSHA, PACT, HazCom, Forklift, PPE, and Customer Service certifications. She decided to take our CNA career route training because she wants to pursue a career in nursing. The best part of Mo’s day is seeing her child and her favorite thing is trying new foods when she can. Mo’s advice to new students is: “Stay focused on your goals and don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it. We are all family at YouthBuild and that involves your family encouraging you until the end. Be determined to reach your goals.”
Keishanna was born and raised in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky and graduated from Iroquois High School in 2015. Keishanna has played basketball since 6th grade for her church and schools and still practices with her friends. Basketball was something she could turn to when everything else was going wrong. Keishanna wasn’t satisfied with her life, bouncing back and forth from different factory jobs. Doing that for a couple of years made her realize that she wanted more of a challenge in life and knew she had the potential to do something more impactful. She didn’t know where to go or what to do until she heard about YouthBuild Louisville from her uncle and knew it was the perfect fit.
At first, Keishanna was always calling YouthBuild, wanting to know if there was a way she could start sooner than orientation. After helping her Grandmother while she was ill, Keishanna gained a passion for helping others. Seeing how she helped her grandmother, Keishanna realized her own potential in becoming a Registered Nurse. Keishanna was ready to make big life changes when she realized she could receive training in YouthBuild’s Nursing Career Track and become a Certified Nursing Assistant by graduation.
Not only does YouthBuild have her ready to start her CNA training in December, but Keishanna is also registered to start college at JCTC, August 2019. By the time she is in college, she will have already completed her CNA training. This experience will help her work towards becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse through JCTC. While waiting to start her CNA training, Keishanna has completed HAZMAT training and will complete OSHA and CPR training in the next two weeks. Keishanna’s advice for incoming students is, “Take advantage of the opportunities YBL offers. You can come and complete your GED, get help with interviews and resumes for jobs, and get training and certification in things like Construction and Nursing.” Keishanna also mentioned that she values the staff and her peers the most at YBL because they are the people who make YBL a reality.
Brandon is an alum who stops by from time to time. He graduated in 2004 and represents the earlier graduates of YouthBuild Louisville. He visits to catch up with his friends from YouthBuild and to meet new incoming students. Since YouthBuild helped him get direction in life, he wants to return the favor and be a positive role model for any new incoming students. He wants to be a part of the change our students undergo because he sees the value it brought to his own life.
We love when Brandon stops by because he reminds students of what is important to think about when starting the program. Brandon says, “You all (new students) should come into the program open-minded. YouthBuild changes you and it's best to embrace the change. It will result in a positive mindset moving forward. Also, doing things you’ve never done before may be scary but YBL will never put you in a harmful situation. Even if you find the program to be tough, don't give up; there are many different ways to get the same result - try it again in another way. Basically, prepare for a positive life change.” Students never take advice from alumni lightly. We are grateful to have Brandon as a mentor for our youth.
After YouthBuild, Brandon went through a lot of training and jobs to get to where he is now as a Dialysis Technician. In the future, he hopes to open up a staffing agency for people interested in becoming a Dialysis Technician. His target group will be young males from the west end of Louisville. He wants to first get his students a technician certificate and then teach them the next steps in what they need to do moving forward. He figures he will teach them everything he had to go through so they can avoid any barriers holding them back from completing the process of becoming a Dialysis Technician.
When Brittany Pettway, age 20, entered YouthBuild, she was doing drugs and did not have a high school diploma. Throughout her time at YouthBuild, she has been able to overcome her drug use and earn her diploma. She has even started the process to become a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School system.
The closeness of YouthBuild is something Brittany cherishes the most, especially being able to spend time with other students outside of school. Having teachers push her to do her best, especially Ms. Rae, is what Brittany credits as her inspiration for getting her diploma. Brittany’s favorite memory at YouthBuild was getting her diploma, a feat that may not have been possible without some tough love and dedication.
Brittany has embraced YouthBuild's values and attitude, “I feel like it’s helped me become a better woman and actually see who I really am outside in the real world,” she said.
As Brittany prepares to enter the workforce to become a teacher, she still continues to thrive in YouthBuild. She recently was picked as one of only two students chosen to go to Washington D.C. to speak on behalf of YouthBuild Louisville at the 2018 Conference of Young Leaders, something she was extremely excited to do. When it comes to advice for students at YouthBuild, Brittany said, “Don’t give up. At the end of the day, you get a good outcome and a second chance just being here.”
Elias Norris, 20, has had a very positive experience during his time at YouthBuild. It was a change in routine and lifestyle for him. He appreciates the community service that the group does on Fridays in the surrounding areas. Doing service in the Louisville community has given him a good feeling he said he isn’t used to! Helping those in need is in the heart of YouthBuild, and it leaves a profound impact on its students! Elias said: I feel like I have matured a lot since I have been at YouthBuild. He then told us that “My decision-making has been influenced a lot since I have been here because I have been in such a positive environment.”
Elias is on track to graduate and have a job in the Construction Industry very soon. He plans to join the union with McIntyre Construction because of the skills and experience he has learned in the construction program! Elias praised the YouthBuild construction program because students do not just build things to get experience, but they build certain things that will help the youth in the community. By building playhouses and playground equipment, Elias is able to learn occupational skills while helping those around him. He recently was asked to speak at the Playhouse reveal on behalf of YouthBuild! Elias said his favorite memory at YouthBuild thus far was doing his first demolition day with the construction program! He said it was a good way to release stress.
YouthBuild is proud of all of our graduates and their accomplishments after leaving the program. Many former students stay connected and update us throughout their journey. Morgana Dockery graduated from YouthBuild in 2002, part of the original first class from YBL.
After graduation, Morgana attended Jefferson Community & Technical College where she received her Associates in Applied Science and Medical Assisting in 2008. She became a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) holding that position for nine years working at various organizations like Family Health Centers and being a part of the team to start the Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center in 2011. Morgana eventually took a CMA position under Dr. Guelda in pediatrics before returning to school at Spalding University in 2015 to get her Bachelor of Science in Social Work. In October, Morgana started her new position at Norton's Neuroscience Institute under Dr. Finizio. Morgana will graduate in June of 2019 and we couldn’t be prouder!
In addition to attending college and working full time, Morgana is also raising two sons, Elijah (19) and Evan (13) and has a wonderful relationship with her boyfriend, Laron. She credits her supportive family and friends, as well as her YouthBuild family, with her continued success! Way to go Morgana!
Devontae Pearson is in the student spotlight this month for his exceptional contributions and dedication to the YouthBuild Louisville (YBL) program. After being referred by St. John's to join YBL, Devontae set his mind and efforts on attaining his GED, attending college and getting certifications in Construction and as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
While attending the YBL program, Devontae has been commended for his positive solution-oriented behavior. He is currently working on completing the program with perfect attendance and enjoys participating in group activities such as working on Kosair playhouses. Devontae strives to be a good role model for others, avoiding arguments, offering help where needed, and promoting abstinence from smoking and drinking. In his free time, he enjoys skating, bowling and playing XBOX.
Devontae has spoken at YBL's March Building Lives Luncheon and Kosair's Playhouse Reveal. He used these events as an opportunity to be courageous and open up about his personal experiences. His hard work and dedication have earned him the opportunity to participate in this year's French Exchange Program in June where he will go with YBL staff and students to work in the Garden of Versailles for two weeks.
Devontae offered his advice to incoming students joining YBL, "Stay dedicated, motivated and show up every day. Waking up every day is all the motivation needed." Devontae's time at YBL has helped him open up to people and strive to help those in need. He has proven himself to be a confident and reliable student over time and is a shining example of what can happen when you try your best to accomplish life goals.
An attitude, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, "is a mental position with regard to a fact or state; a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state." The dictionary goes on to state that the word "positive" can be used as "having a good effect; favorable; marked by optimism." Levelle Jackson is the definition of a positive attitude!
He tries to make everyone smile and keep their spirits up. He’s using that positive attitude to get ahead in life by getting his GED and certification in construction and going on to college for business or real estate. For Levelle, YouthBuild Louisville alumni and his family are the way to success. He wants to change his life and he knows YouthBuild is the way to do that. He advises anyone considering the program, “It’s a good program if you’re serious,” and says it can help anyone get where they need to be to overcome barriers. He’s excited to work on Kosair playhouses and the laundromat building restoration at Duvall's Liquors. Levelle’s proudest moment was the project at Mr. Rob’s house. He loved seeing his reaction and the experience he gained using recycled materials for the work (seeing the television coverage on WHAS11 and WAVE3 was cool too)!
Eric Hale, Jr.
With his Jefferson County High School Diploma in hand, Eric Hale, Jr. is beaming with pride! Through hard work and personal dedication, Eric was able to complete his courses and earn the diploma while enrolled in the YouthBuild Louisville program. But the journey was not an easy one, and Eric has worked hard to realize his dreams!
Eric was referred to the YouthBuild Louisville program by two alumni of YouthBuild, Kevin Staples and Maurica Williams. “I heard about their experience in YouthBuild and I thought it might work for me too,” said Eric.
“When Eric first entered YouthBuild his ADHD and subsequent behavior patterns had prevented him from reaching his goals in a traditional learning environment. This is not uncommon with our students, and it’s something we work really hard to address within our program, but ultimately the students have to put in the work” said Kennina Porter, Program Manager at YouthBuild Louisville.
“Eric has experienced a dramatic transformation over these last few months in the program. Initially, he could barely sit still and focus. It took a while for new habits to form, but he really has invested in the process. He’s much more intentional about his interactions and has learned to recognize when it is time to separate himself and work on individual work in order to stay on task. His upbeat personality is now a welcomed trait as he encourages his peers and passionately pursues his goals,” Kennina continued.
Eric is one of the YouthBuild students currently enrolled in the CNA Training program through a partnership with Spaulding University. Eric plans to attend Bluegrass Community Technical College and later transfer to the University of Kentucky to complete his nursing degree. It’s been a great few weeks for Eric as he has recently celebrated his 21st Birthday, received his Driver’s License, played in his first game on the YBL basketball team and earned his High School Diploma! Way to go, Eric, we are all very proud of you!