For YouthBuild participants, failure’s not an option

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 15, 2010

NATCHEZ — Twenty-six young men and women clad in white T-shirts and khaki pants marched down Homochitto, Orleans and Commerce streets Wednesday afternoon, determined to make their voices heard.

They were successful in their attempt as employees downtown left the confines of their offices as the voices grew louder and closer.

“Nothing ever comes free. It’s going to take hard work and determination to become the standouts we are meant to be,” the group chanted. “Through hell or high water we will make it. Because failure is not an option.”

Those words, part of the City of Natchez’s YouthBuild program creed, ignited a sense of pride among the group. The program, on the brink of inducting its second class, is designed to train and educate high school dropouts.

Friday, the group will conclude its orientation process. Not all will make it through.

“For me, I personally enjoyed walking. Once we started the creed, people were coming outside and you could see some people had smiles on their faces because we were doing something positive,” said participant Natasha Fuller.

“I’m proud of all of us,” said participant Dewayne Jackson. “We came together as a unit… as a family.”

Participant Gabriel Carman said the march reminded him of historic times.

“Walking down that road, reciting that creed, it made me feel like we were back in the old days of downtown Natchez,” Carman said. “It was like a movement, and people were hearing what we had to say.”

City of Natchez Community Development Director Darlene Jones, who oversees the YouthBuild program, said more than 40 people attended the first day of orientation at the Margaret Martin Gymnasium. The number dwindled because orientation proved to be too tough for some.

“We have seen some transformations over the past few days,” Jones said. “The others couldn’t take it. They weren’t ready for change.”

The group has participated in several character building exercises administered by Respect for Life Education Services Inc., of Miami.

Brother Al Johnson and Brother Lyle Grandison of Respect for Life accompanied the group along their marching route from the Margaret Martin Gymnasium to the City Council Chambers on Pearl Street, where the YouthBuild office is located.

The physical and mental activities have presented a challenge to the remaining participants, but they refuse to give up. They each say they’ve come too far to disappoint themselves and each other.

“Ready to quit?” Brother Lyle asked.

“No!” the group replied in unison. “Quitting is not in our vocabulary.”