Youth Build students complete program

Published 12:35 am Monday, February 22, 2010

NATCHEZ — The 2010 graduating class of the Youth Build program finally got the chance to put on graduation robes and accept a diploma.

Youth Build is a program funded through the U.S. Department of Labor that gives youth education, construction training, job skills training and counseling in order to prepare them to enter the job force or continue their education.

Locally, the Youth Build program has partnered with Copiah-Lincoln Community College to give GED education to participants without a high school diploma.

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On Sunday eight members of the first graduating class accepted diplomas. The class had a total of 12 graduating members.

Terrance Brown, Brittany Coach, Carl Felton, Darrius Fleming, Devarte Frazier, Tranika Gordon, Brandon Grantham, Nickolaus Groce, Gloria Jackson, Jamar Johnson, Chris Spencer and Cedric Taylor have all completed the Youth Build program requirements.

Youth Build Program Manager Don Smith said the graduates have taken a significant step in creating a successful path for their lives.

“Youth Build is committed to teaching valuable lessons about service, dedication and leadership,” he said.

Class valedictorian Nickolaus Groce said enrolling in the program is one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“I have to truly thank everyone involved in the program,” he said. “Through the program they made a difference in the lives of each member of this class.”

In his address to his classmates, Groce said each member of the class impacted him positively and offered encouragement and support in difficult times.

“This hasn’t always been an easy road,” he said. “We’ve been through tough times,” he said. “But we never gave up and now we are at the end.”

Guest speaker Michael Thomas, Natchez native and deputy superintendent of operations for the Jackson Public Schools told the crowd that filled the City of Natchez Council Chambers that he started from very little but through hard work was able to accomplish much in his life.

“You have to be able to keep moving forward,” he said.

He told the graduates that it is important to always believe in yourself, especially when other people doubt you. He said after he accepted the job with the Jackson schools, he was told the job was too big for him.

“A woman at my church told me I couldn’t do that big old job,” he said. “What I had to do was overcome that thought and do the job.”

Thomas told the graduates that they have already faced several obstacles in life and will likely face more, but by making good choices they can eliminate some of the stumbling blocks.

“Become morally good people and that will eliminate a lot of the things that cause you to struggle,” he said.