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Great Falls YouthBuild Interns’ ‘Labor of Love’ Helps Blighted Paterson Communities

YouthBuild interns and mentor   Photos provided by NJCDC
NJ CDC file photo of YouthBuild project

PATERSON, NJ - The location at 94 Spruce Street was initially in a state of disrepair and abandonment, but that didn’t deter the 12 Great Falls YouthBuild student volunteers who began work on Monday on the next stage of their hands-on construction of a new home.

Overcoming obstacles is all part of the program designed to provide high school drop-outs with skills they need to succeed in the job market. The YouthBuild program, part of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation’s community outreach initiative, mentors disadvantaged or at-risk youths with classroom instruction and on-the-job internships.

The unpaid volunteers realize this is a chance to give back to the community and to improve the environment of their respective neighborhoods.

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“Basically, we are doing this because we care about people,’’ said YouthBuild intern Cassandra Lopez. “Hey, I don’t want to do this the rest of my life, but I care about the people in the community.”

That sentiment was echoed by other interns. One of them, 17- year-old Elijah Cline, already had construction experience through the apprenticeship-type intervention of his grandfather, Larry Cline.

“I told him not to go into the classroom and think you know more than anyone else. Just listen to what is said and learn,’’ said the elder Cline.  His grandson has been in the YouthBuild program since November 2011 and he has been going to construction sites with his grandfather since he was eight years old.

When asked if he likes doing what he is doing Elijah replied, “I don’t mind. I am an electrician. I understand this (building house frames, sheet-rocking) has to be done as part of the job. I don’t mind, but I’m more into the electrician field.’’

 “This is mostly hands-on,’’ Cline added. “We have our own place to build houses at our school. And it (the YouthBuild program) gives you a chance to do something you like to do in life.”

The elder Cline stated, “And I make him do sheetrock, too!”

According to NJCDC partner John Struble of Vision Construction this is the fifth project that has involved the YouthBuild personnel including the renovation of the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works buildings off Market Street. Additional projects are planned for the future.

The overall success of the YouthBuild program depends on the enthusiasm of the student participants.

“I did not want to get up this morning to come out in the cold, but it was my responsibility,” said YouthBuild intern,  Ms. Compton.

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