June 30, 2018
By Brad Johnson
ELKINS — Officials, family and friends gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of 18 young adults as they graduated from the YouthBuild of North Central West Virginia program this week.
“On Oct. 30, 26 were invited, and 23 accepted the challenge,” Michelle Phares, the YouthBuild program manager, said, saluting the 18 individuals who completed the program. “They walked together through personal struggles and terrible loss. They became a team.”
“This is not an end,” Phares said. “It’s a transition. It’s a beginning.”
Elkins Mayor Van Broughton was on hand at the Phil Gainer Community Center for Thursday’s ceremony, telling the graduates, “You are great people and Elkins is a better place because of you.”
Greetings were sent to the graduates from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
“I feel so blessed to get to know you guys,” said Jennifer “J.J.” Johnson, coordinator of Youth Health Service’s Home Ties Strengthening Families Center, who has worked with the graduates in group sessions. “It means a lot to me that you guys share with me and I share with you.
“You are strong, you are special and you deserve to have a good life,” she said.
Sharelle Harmon, a 2015 YouthBuild North Central graduate who was elected the national president of the YouthBuild USA student leadership body, told the graduates they needed to stay in contact with each other.
“Continue to love each other and continue to support each other,” she said.
The 2018 graduates are Donnie Barkley, Katie Briggs, Kate Collins, Shatia Currence, Breanna Ford, Austin Harris, Sam Jack, Allysia McCoy, Makayla Morris, Grant Powell, Miranda Schoonover, Nicholas Shaw, Hank Smith, Biker Sottile, Kalina Steiger, Melissa Steiger, Michelle Steiger and Kristen Stewart.
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 Executive Director Karen Jacobson, Case Manager Heather Fowler, Job Developer Tara Webley, Construction Trainer Randy Cunningham, Construction Trainer Assistant Otto High and Instructor Loren Fortney.
The program offers young men and women the opportunity to earn money while gaining hands-on experience through building quality houses. 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.