ELKINS - Nine months of learning and 6,956 hours of community service paved the way for 17 individuals graduating Friday from the YouthBuild North Central program.
Jason Vandevander, program manager for YouthBuild North Central, said he was proud of each of the graduates.
"Over the last nine months, these graduates have faced truly daunting challenges that at the time seemed unbeatable," Vandevander said. "The one thing many of the graduates failed to realize is they each possess an amazing internal strength to adapt and survive."
YouthBuild North Central Director Jason Vandevander welcomes the program’s students and their families to the graduation ceremony Friday at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart)
The graduation ceremony was Friday in the Rotary Room at the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA.
Since Youthbuild North Central's opening in 1995, more than 300 men and women have graduated from the YouthBuild North Central program, which serves Randolph, Barbour, Tucker and Upshur counties, Vandevander said.
Graduate Anthony Arbogast, of Elkins, said he entered the YouthBuild program to get a better job and change his life.
"I wanted to obtain my GED," Arbogast said. "While in YouthBuild I learned about construction and electrical work. I improved my communication skills, learned self discipline and helped with community service.
"There are lots of folks out there that need help, and I learned how to be helpful and help others in my community."
Hollie Lukenbill, of Beverly, said she joined the YouthBuild program to better herself and get a GED.
"I got a high score on my GED and am proud of that," Lukenbill said. "I thought because I did not graduate from high school that I could not be an RN. My time in YouthBuild showed me that I can be whatever I want to be. "
Lukenbill said she is working to earn her CNA and hopes to enter LPN school next year. After that, she plants to go to Davis & Elkins College.
"YouthBuild is awesome," Lukenbill said.
During the students' time in the YouthBuild program, seven earned GEDs, 12 earned pre-apprenticeship certificate training and one completed the MEDPrep program. Every student completed an OSHA 10 certification, CPR/First Aid and food handlers training.
Graduates helped throughout the community, aiding community organizations such as Catholic Charities, Randolph County Recycling program and the Randolph County Humane Society.
"We believe these individuals are our greatest resource to building a better future for the community," Vandevander said. "The graduates' valuable assistance is a core value that is the base of the YouthBuild philosophy."
Vandevander said this crew also worked on several construction projects, including major rehabilitation work on a four-unit low income apartment complex, the Glendale Park Facilities Building, Belington City Park project, weatherization of multiple housing units and Boy Scout Camp sleeping quarters.
Receiving certificates Friday were Nick Anderson, Anthony Arbogast, Lonzo Carpenter, Andrew Coffman, Keian Currence, Brent Dalton, Josh Daniels, Nicole Daniels, Josh Hinchman, Chris Hollobaugh, Wayne Lattea, Hollie Luckenbill, Brandon McBee, Emily McCauley, Nathan Nine, Cody Pudder and Ashley Tharp.
"We are currently accepting applications for motivated individuals for the program," Vandevander said. "Folks age 16 to 24 who reside in Randolph, Barbour or Tucker counties are eligible to apply. While in the program, participants can earn a TASC (formerly GED) and learn job skills."
More information is available at 300 Boundary St. in Elkins, by calling 304-637-9008 or online at www.rchawv.org/youthbuild.html.