PATERSON, NJ- Lourdes Baldera said her year of classroom education and practical hands-on work as a member of New Jersey Community Development Center’s (NJCDC) YouthBuild program has been a great learning experience.  

Following a national model, NJCDC’s Paterson Great Falls YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that provides a meaningful "second chance" for area youth to earn their diplomas and a construction industry-recognized certificate in an effort to help them find long-term, living-wage jobs. The year-long program empowers youth to rebuild themselves as they rebuild their communities through a combination of work, education, service, and leadership development.

Accompanied by her mother, Wendy Ramos, Lourdes, who moved to the are from Florida five years ago, clad in a white cap and gown, proudly displayed her diploma following the October 8 graduation ceremony.

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“YouthBuild helped me a lot in the basics of math, language arts, history, and science,” Lourdes stated.  “I’ve already been accepted at the Passaic County Community College (PCCC). After completion there, I want to attend Florida State University where my mom graduated from.  She got a degree in business administration but I am interested in both the medical field and construction.”

Lourdes told TAPinto Paterson she has worked as a volunteer building houses with Habitat for Humanity. She also said the various construction projects she participated in throughout the year with YouthBuild proved to be valuable learning experiences.  

“We have laboratories and then go out in the field and do work such as construction, plumbing, and electrical,” Randy Lawson, Director of Construction for YouthBuild said. “These young people have faced so many struggles and challenges.  They can now enter society with confidence and have great opportunities to get jobs in the construction trades.”

Graduates Rhy’najah Chavirs and Kendra Bease said they have known each other since the 6th grade and became best friends at a sweet-16 party, in 2016.  Both previously attended Passaic High School.

18-year old Rhy’najah said the most valuable lesson she learned during her time with YouthBuild was, “to be more persistent and never give up on myself.”  Her mother, Arinese Chavirs, and sister, Sah’kira Walker, both attended the ceremony.

“I’ve come a long way,” Rhy’najah said about her educational journey.  

“I’ve been accepted at PCCC.  I want to become a registered, certified nurse.  This past year, even when I wanted to stop, my teachers told me to keep on going.”

Kendra said her community service hours spent with YouthBuild provided a new perspective.  

“We cleaned up around a church in downtown Paterson,” the 17-year old stated adding that they also picked up litter, raked leaves, and spent time cleaning one of Paterson’s parks.

Kendra said that she, like her colleague in learning, also wants to major in nursing.  She said she is still deciding between PCCC and Felician College to further continue her education.  

In total 17 students successfully earned their High School Equivalency Diplomas, 23 students completed their Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training in Construction, and 23 students obtained their Occupational Safety and Health Administration Certification through YouthBuild this year, and for them, according to a statement by NJCDC, “the best is yet to come.

Click here to learn more about NJCDC’s YouthBuild program.


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