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Youth Build Program Offers Better Future For High School Dropouts

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DURHAM — Some teenagers in Durham who could use some help are teaming up with an industry that could use a few extra hands.

The young people are all high school dropouts, who joined the Youth Build program to finish their educations and learn a trade. They are building affordable housing for their communities and better futures for themselves.

"So many young adults are on the streets," says Gussie Young, construction manager. "They have nothing to do, and they're smart students. It's not the fact that they couldn't pass in school, but it's just that they had nothing to turn their interest on."

Corey Mitchell says the Youth Build program turned his life around. At 24, he is finally earning his GED, planning a career, and putting a troubled past behind him.

"You get mad, you usually go out and fight," Mitchell says. "I get mad now, I go to work and hit something. You hit something long enough, you'll build something."

"I figure if I can get a trade and my GED, then that's just a lesson for me to learn right now," Mitchell says.

The students are not the only ones who benefit from the Youth Build program.

Contractors have a hard time hiring construction help in the Triangle's tight job market. The project lets them train students who want careers in the construction field.

"They're working with our lead carpenter, learning the trade that way, or with our plumber or our concrete guy," says Cliff Zinner of Raleigh Durham Construction.

The mentoring will pay off for many students in June, when the program ends. Many have already lined up jobs with local contractors.

Durham's Community Development Corporation runs the Youth Build program. They have built 11 houses in the past four years.