YouthBuild Students Build House with Habitat for Humanity and Learn More Than Just Trades

Young people in Omaha, Nebraska, are learning valuable life skills by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house. However, they are also learning other skills that aren’t quite as tangible, either.

For Marcus Hill, 22, the lessons have been about more than drywall and siding installation, even though these are useful job-related skills. Hill also says he’s learned dedication: “Once you’re handed a job, there’s no giving up on it.”

Hill and 25 others in the YouthBuild program completed work on a two-bedroom home at 6108 Fontenelle Blvd., which they started in September. A dedication was held in late June, according to YouthBuild program director Miriam Blair.

YouthBuild and Habitat have been longtime partners in Omaha and nationwide. In Omaha, their participants have helped build at least eight homes, and this was the first time they had built one from the ground up. Across the globe, Habitat for Humanity offers programs for youth, women, and many other specialized groups, and they also handle disaster relief efforts, as well.

YouthBuild trains young people between the ages of 16 and 24 for construction trades in programs that can last anywhere from six to 24 months of full-time work. Their participants come from AmeriCorps, a federal volunteer community service agency.

Habitat uses volunteer labor to build around 50 houses in Omaha each year. The organization has built over 350,000 houses around the world.

For YouthBuild’s participants, their training is crucial. Although they don’t learn plumbing or electrical work, which are tasks requiring a contractor, they do learn other tasks, such as drywall installation, siding installation, framing and painting, which they practice in a workshop first.

The group that built the house on Fontenelle Blvd. will graduate at the end of July with a 10-hour federal safety certification, a Home Builders Institute certification and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to provide money towards college.

Students and other individuals who volunteer are a valuable asset to their communities, and their service shows colleges and future employers that they are well-rounded and would make motivated employees. Programs such as YouthBuild are especially relevant for those looking to further their education in trade schools.

This type of training is especially crucial to YouthBuild participants, as only 25 percent of them have graduated from high school, and many have reading or math deficiencies. Some of the program’s students have been homeless at one time or another, and virtually all are from low-income backgrounds. However, YouthBuild’s curriculum helps them obtain general equivalency diplomas and provides résumé help and job training.

But the training goes a long way in helping these students, and Blair commented that, “When they get this training, they want to work… They like to use their hands. That’s the reason many are not successful in traditional classrooms. We’ve seen that over and over.”

For Hill, and others, the training was a “positive experience.” Hill plans to use his training to go into landscaping and get a horticulture degree from Metropolitan Community College.

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