YouthBuild celebrates first graduates

Published 12:16 am Friday, February 1, 2019


NATCHEZ — Fourteen students graduated Thursday from the first YouthBuild program at ceremony in the Louis Gunning Community Safe Room.

YouthBuild is an organization that provides education, counseling and job skills

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to unemployed young people between the ages of 16 and 24, generally students without a high school diploma or GED.

The local YouthBuild program is offered through the Natchez Housing Authority and is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor and is aimed at helping at-risk youths by offering education, counseling and job skills.

The Natchez Housing YouthBuild program is 6-to-9 months and offers five components: construction, education, counseling, leadership and graduate opportunity.

“When they come into this program, they are engaged in academics and working toward their high school diploma,” said Mable Starks, consultant for YouthBuild. “The participants in this program come from the Natchez area. They are simply young people who have decided that they are ready for a transformation in their lives.”

The program, Starks said, is 50 percent academic, 40 percent construction and 10 percent leadership.

“Three days are spent in academics, two days are spent in construction,” Starks said.

YouthBuild students, Starks said, utilize those components to obtain marketable job skills and experience for their resumes.

Starks said her favorite part of the YouthBuild program is seeing students realize the staff is trying to help them change their lives.

“This is the very first class, so it’s a big day and a proud day,” Starks said of Thursday’s graduation.

Graduates are Nyesha Gaylor, Jnesia Albert, Daphne Belton, Keith Bradford, Jatarrius Jackson, Zejuana Davis, Candice Good, Jelremy, Hutchins, Jarell Johnson, Curleesia Knight, Roniqua McKnight, Joseph Proby, Lakira Smith and Laura Swazy.

“I’m blessed,” Jatarrius Jackson said, adding he was able to enroll and become a fulltime student at Alcorn State University with the help of the staff at YouthBuild.

“If there are any young people out there who need a transformation or an opportunity, go to Natchez Housing Authority,” Starks said.

YouthBuild encourages people without a high school diploma to enroll.