February 19, 2019
By Brad Johnson
ELKINS — The journey completed by eight young adults was celebrated during the 2019 graduation of the YouthBuild of North Central West Virginia program.
Officials, family and friends gathered at the Phil Gainer Community Center on Feb. 14 to celebrate the accomplishments of the students and wish them well as they embarked on the next chapter of their lives.
Karen Jacobson, executive director of the program, noted the Randolph County Housing Authority has sponsored YouthBuild for more than 20 years. Projects this year’s graduates have worked on included building skate ramps for Glendale Park in Elkins; building picnic tables for Camp Pioneer; and building sheds for the United Way of Randolph County.
Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gave each of the graduates a special certificate from the city of Elkins.
“The city of Elkins cannot thank you fine folks enough for all the hard work you’ve put in to make this town look better,” Broughton told the graduates. “I hope that your dreams will take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities and to the most special places your hearts have to give.”
Jennifer “J.J.” Johnson, the family service coordinator for the Home Ties Strengthening Families Center, located at Youth Health Service, praised the graduates on the work they have done.
“I am so proud of you guys. You guys worked really hard,” she said. “These are great human beings. They don’t always think they are. People don’t always tell them they are. But they’ve got great hearts, strong spirits and they’ve got a lot to offer.”
The 2019 graduates are Zachary Ankney, Nathaniel Briggs, Courtney Harris, Haylee Petrice, Carly Ranger, William “Eli” Sherill, Erich Trickett and Tiffany Valentine.
The YouthBuild program strives to give young adults the tools to get a good job and keep it. YouthBuild attempts to strengthen the educational backgrounds of young adults, teach marketable skills and entrepreneurship and instill leadership values that relate to home, work and community in order to assist young adults with becoming responsible members of the community.
YouthBuild Education Coordinator Thomas Akers was the emcee for the graduation ceremony.
Other YouthBuild staff taking part included Job Developer Tara Webley, Construction Trainer Randy Cunningham, Construction Trainer Assistant Otto High and Instructor Loren Fortney. Program Manager Michelle Phares was ill and unable to take part.
The work YouthBuild participants complete also is reinforced with classroom instruction, job shadowing and personal guidance. Out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 are eligible to apply. The program typically lasts between six to 10 months.
A letter to the graduates from Sharelle Harmon, a 2015 YouthBuild North Central graduate who was elected the national president of the YouthBuild USA student leadership body, was read during the graduation.
Representatives from the offices of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke during the ceremony, as did Rhett Dusenbury, representing Congressman Alex Mooney, R-Second District.