By KARA GAE NEAL
HELPING OUT: YouthBuild participants have made a positive impact on the community and their own lives. Recently, a number of volunteers removed graffiti behind the Riverside Shopping Center.
Recently a large group of teens were spotted gathering behind the Riverside Shopping Center near 95th Street and South Delaware. The group continued to walk behind the various stores and businesses before splitting into two smaller groups and making their way down into the concrete drainage basin located directly behind the shopping center.
The groups gathered out of sight in two separate areas, both of which contained a large amount of unsightly and offensive graffiti. After several hours, all of the teens emerged from the basin, walked past the shopping center, and left over half a mile of concrete completely free of graffiti.
All of these young individuals have two things in common. They have dropped out of school for one reason or another, and they are participating in YouthBuild, an innovative, work-based dropout recovery program. The program is focused on occupations in the construction industry, but also contains leadership and community service components.
“I like improving the look of Tulsa,” says Chase Lackey, an 18-year old former Nathan Hale High School student who hopes to learn several types of welding. “Nobody really wants to see all of this negative graffiti, and now it looks much better.”
“I think it helps show that not all young people are into gangs, and that kind of stuff,” echoes Eric Courtaway, an 18-year old former Jenks High School student who looks forward to owning his own construction company in the future.
The YouthBuild program recruits unemployed young adults ages 16-24. Many of these students have faced the challenges that accompany growing up in lower income families including foster care, juvenile justice, welfare and homelessness.
“Most of us just didn’t have to deal with the issues and challenges that these young folks have had to cope with,” explains Linda Parker, the Coordinator of YouthBuild. “Several times I’ve heard different students say if it wasn’t for this program they’d probably be on the street.”
YouthBuild enables these returning students to serve their communities by building affordable housing and assists them in transforming their own lives
and establishing a career. Participants spend six to 24 months in the program, dividing their time between a designated construction site and the YouthBuild program.
“Our most important goal is positive placement,” explains Dr. Richard Palazzo, Tulsa Tech’s Director of Alternative Education. “I believe the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. That’s why one of the initial components of the program is to complete an assessment and evaluate the commitment of each student.”
Tulsa Tech is a proud to stand alongside Workforce Oklahoma, Youth Services of Tulsa, Tulsa Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, City of Tulsa, Union Schools, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor in order to help bring this unique program to these deserving students.
If you’re currently looking for exciting classes for both high school and adult students, quality business and industry training, or an opportunity to drop back in, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, call (918) 828-5200 or visit www.tulsatech.edu.