Student Stories

YouthBuild Graduate: Trevon Walton

clip_image002My name is Trevon Walton. I joined YouthBuild in January 2015 and it has been so beneficial to me and to my life. I had been working on my GED for over a year, procrastinating and not taking it seriously. My progression had come to almost a dead stop. I was homeless for some time, without income, couch surfing, roaming the streets and wishing for an opportunity.

“Before YouthBuild, I was stagnant, stuck in still water. I wasn’t doing anything with myself. I was sitting around waiting for an opportunity, dreaming about a dream.” – Trevon Walton

“I am enrolled in AmeriCorps, which is amazing. I have learned the importance of volunteering, not only for myself, but the importance to the community and doing what I know is right.” – Trevon Walton

clip_image0021I have also learned how to set goals and the satisfaction of accomplishing those goals. Before YouthBuild I had no plan, only a dream. Now I have an elaborate plan that I am actively pursuing. I know what I want and know how to stay on the path towards my success.
After I graduate this program, I’m going to SFCC for audio engineering, video engineering and business classes to accomplish some of my goals. I also want steady work, which will be a lot easier to obtain after graduating. YouthBuild is now and will remain a positive influence and opportunity in my life.

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YouthBuild Graduate: Adam Brown


I was two credits short of graduating high school. I could have done summer school or returned for another half year, but I HATED school. The only thing that kept me going for four years was sports. So I left school and tried to become a successful Gamer. I was always good at video games and I’m a very competitive person. I was on a professional team for about five years. That lifestyle takes a toll.

I quit playing about a year and a half ago, because after five years, I had only earned $2k and I weighed 356lbs. This was shocking because I wrestled at 215lbs in HS. I decided to start going to the gym and in 12 months I lost 115lbs. I wanted to join the Army and be an Army Ranger. I spoke with a recruiter about my mile times, BF% ect… I had all my paperwork, background check and everything ready but I needed my GED. I was EXTREMELY serious about it.

I was talking to my brother one day about this program he was in called YouthBuild. They were helping him with his GED, teaching him about construction and they were going to help him with college as well. The Army could get me college help and leadership training, but I decided YB could give me all that, without the risk of death. I want to be an architect who owns his own construction company. I was thinking YB could be the perfect starting point.

The cut-off age is 24, I was about to turn 25. So I got in, literally, at the last second, and I’ve already learned a ton in the two months I’ve been here. I’ve passed the GED 2014.. I’ve done stuff from building shelves and benches, to running trusses and shoveling powdered dirt. I’m going to be talking to an SCC counselor about signing up for pre-college classes.

YouthBuild works in partnership with AmeriCorps, which is a program that brings many different types of people together, to improve communities through remodeling/building houses with Habitat for Humanity and other volunteer work. In AmeriCorps, they have this thing called the Education award; if you give 300 hours of service/volunteering they will give you $1200 to go towards books, laptop, or anything you need for school. That’s a GREAT opportunity if you ask me.

“Creating and building things is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and YouthBuild is going to help me achieve my dreams. Thank you!” – Adam Brown

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YouthBuild Graduate: Judith Strong-Cooper

"You may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit." - Judith Cooper Strong Graduation September 2014

“You may see me struggle, but you will never see me quit.” – Judith Cooper Strong Graduation September 2014

My story was different from most. I didn’t drop out of high school. I attended all four years but did not receive enough credits to graduate. The feeling of being done with school is one I never expected to experience. There were so many challenges. I am thankful for all of the support and second chances.

In 11th grade I was given a second chance through the NEWESD 101 Net Program where I earned a credit waiver for missing credits. The Next Generation Zone gave me an internship at Center Pointe, a recreational and socialization program for adults with disabilities. I loved that job, waking up every morning and going there to work with disabled adults started to feel like it wasn’t even work. I decided that this would be my career and becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) was a perfect start.
I returned to Rogers HS on-track to graduate with my peers if I did not fail any additional classes. Unfortunately, at the end of my senior year I had failed three classes. That invalidated my credit waiver and I was not able to graduate with my class. I struggled for two years trying to finish school on my own. I enrolled in alternative schools to try to make up both the senior year classes and previously waived credits. It was during this time that I got pregnant with my son and shortly after his dad died along with a really close friend of mine. Focusing on school was very difficult and I had to pick myself up. I transferred to Spokane Valley Contract and worked on my credits for 6 months. I doubled my credits from 7.25 – 14.5.

The Crosswalk Teen Center teacher, Ken told me how bright I was and that I had many options. He told me about YouthBuild and showed me a flier. It seemed like a perfect fit where I could get my HS diploma or GED and my CNA all at the same time. As a single mom the monthly stipend was a big factor. After so many years of struggle, I was ready to shift to a fast track.

I attended the information session, completed Mental Toughness and was selected to the team. I was missing too many credits to finish my high school diploma within a year. I didn’t want to settle for my GED, but I was ready to move forward with my life. It is the key to the next door in my education and I intend to go to college. I stuck with the program and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.
In YouthBuild I got to work at the ARC community center for my AmeriCorps hours. I had a great experience and touched the lives of many individuals without even knowing it. YouthBuild paid for my CNA and helped me to prepare for a career in healthcare. The ARC has offered me a position working in the Adult Home Care.

I graduated with my CNA and my GED in September, 2014. I was hired at the New Hope Outreach program adult family home and assisted living. I help with ADL (Activities of Daily Living) doing everything from preparing meals to personal care and companionship It is a good feeling to know that my clients rely on me and look forward to seeing me. I love my job and my clients make it worthwhile no matter how overwhelming it can be. I go home at the end of the day and feel good about myself.

“I plan to go to college within the next year and use my AmeriCorps Education Award. I will begin with my AA for occupational therapy and may go on to pursue my RN. Whichever path I decide to take, I’ll never forget how much YouthBuild helped me. If it wasn’t for the YouthBuild staff I wouldn’t have made it this far, and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.” – Judith Strong-Cooper

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YouthBuild Graduate: Joshua Merrill

Josh In ScrubsMy name is Joshua Merrill and I left my friends and family in Las Vegas, NV to join this program. When I was in Vegas, I had nothing going for me. I was a high school dropout that worked all day and night at a minimum waged job, spending every dollar of my paycheck towards rent and other living expenses. I was in an endless cycle with no education and no vision for my future, until I received a phone call from my mom, who lives in Spokane. She told me about this program and how the fine folks at YouthBuild will help me complete my GED and pay for me to enroll in a CNA course.

I flew to Spokane with my mind made up and as determined as a young man could be. I knew exactly what I wanted and within two months of being enrolled in the program, I earned my GED. I was the first one in the cohort to receive it and I believe the 6th to earn the GED in Spokane, after they replaced the old test with the new and improved one. It was an all-new experience for the Adult Education teachers and everyone at YouthBuild.
I then went on to complete my nursing aide certificate and I got a job at the center where I completed my clinicals for the class. I am currently working at the North Central Rehabilitation Center. It’s all thanks to YouthBuild Spokane. The program made a huge impact on my life.

“If it wasn’t for YouthBuild, I would still be working myself to the grave going nowhere. So thank you YouthBuild you put me onto the correct path.” – Josh Merrill

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YouthBuild Graduate: Trevien Mims

YouthBuild Graduate Trevien MimsHi my name is Trey and I joined YouthBuild in September 2013. It felt like my only chance to do anything productive with my life. My sister brought me a flier and I met all of the qualifications.

I applied to YouthBuild and went to mental toughness. I was nervous, uncomfortable and distant at first. I learned that, if you just are yourself and put an effort into showing patience and keeping a positive attitude, it is possible to survive mental toughness. Respect is a priority here.

My life has completely changed in just a few months. I have completed my GED. I have my life on track. I am able to support my son and he is living with me. I started college January 2014 and work part-time at RGIS. I am proud of myself and my team. We started a new house with Habitat for Humanity, painted the Silver Café that serves low-income seniors. We redid the flooring at St. Ann’s and have completely rebuilt the Transitions Living Center offices.

“This program was exactly what I needed. I had no job, no home, no education and no worth in society’s eyes. I was stuck in an endless cycle. I did not have money without a job. I could not get a job without an education and I could not afford the $150 needed to take my GED classes. I just needed an opportunity and support. Through YouthBuild, I am doing something productive with my life.” – Trevien Mims

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YouthBuild Graduate: Eddie Estrada

There are many opportunities in YouthBuild and staff strives to reach and teach each student but it is difficult to help students who are absent. To improve attendance, awards are presented at quarterly ceremonies. Students must have perfect attendance for an entire month with no absences or tardies- not one minute late. It is a challenge to achieve a perfect month and even harder to achieve three months of perfect attendance which is what it takes to earn an ESTRADA award and pin.

EddieThe ESTRADA is inspired by an outstanding student. Eddie Estrada enrolled in YouthBuild on October 1, 2012 and completed the program March 29, 2013. During this brief term, Eddie faced many challenges. He lost all of his possessions in an apartment fire and had to work really hard to obtain a driver’s license. Despite these challenges, he maintained perfect attendance for four of his six months in the program.

While in YouthBuild, Eddie earned his GED, OSHA 10 certification, First Aid/CPR card and Pre-Apprenticeship Certification Training (PACT) in Painting. He also participated in classes outside the program where he earned his Washington State Traffic Control Flagger card. In addition, he attended a course on lead safety for renovation and painting where he earned his RGA environmental card.

“YouthBuild Spokane is the BEST program you can get in. There is nothing they won’t help you with.”
-Eddie Estrada

With Eddie’s good humor, positive attitude and the work ethic that he brings every day, he created a spark that spread throughout the crews. He has become a great role model for not only the new members but the old ones as well.”

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YouthBuild Graduate: Christi Bergman

DSCF0973Christi Bergman was enrolled in YouthBuild, Cohort 9, on May 10, 2012. While in YouthBuild, Christi completed certifications for OSHA 10, First Aid/CPR and her Pre-Apprenticeship Certification Training (PACT) in Painting. Additionally, she successfully completed her GED on July 2, 2013, during the follow-up phase of the program. In addition, she took the WorkKeys test and earned a Bronze level National Career Readiness Certificate, attended several work readiness training classes and worked hard on leaving with a completed portfolio. Christi helped build a house through First Story and volunteered at several places in the community, including St. Joseph Family Center, SNAP and the Community Warehouse. She was co-enrolled in AmeriCorps where she completed 300 volunteer hours and earned an education award of $1,175. In December,2014, Christi earned her AA and is certified as a Medical Administrative Assistant through Ultimate Medical Academy, an on-line healthcare education program. She is working at the Northern Quest Deli and shared, “I feel proud. I have finally grown up and I am enjoying the independence of working and being able to take care of myself.”

“It was a memorable experience working with YouthBuild. I liked being able to give back to the community and learning new things..” – Christi Bergman

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YouthBuild Graduate: Naythan Bivens

Naythan Bivens enrolled in YouthBuild, Cohort 10, on October 1, 2012, and made remarkable progress. Within three months He earned his GED, OSHA 10 certification and First Aid/CPR card. He is working toward his Pre-Apprenticeship Certification Training (PACT) in Painting and should be completed with classes by February 8, 2013. He also pursued certification outside the program and earned his Washington State Traffic Control Flagger card, as well as, a Forklift certification through Norlift. Nathan

Naythan strives to take advantage of every opportunity. He created a job shadow opportunity with an Avista lineman employee after attending a Worforce Development Council Summit. He co-enrolled in AmeriCorps and was one of the first participants to complete 300 volunteer hours and earn an education award of $1,175. He immediately enrolled in a second term and made plans to utilize his award. He enrolled with the University of Phoenix and will take on-line courses on his own time. Naythan has been an inspiration to our staff and to his team members. We can hardly wait to see what he accomplishes next.

“I do believe that it is all mind over matter. If you don’t mind hard work and giving all you got, it doesn’t matter what your past was or who you used to be. What matters is who you are now and who you are going to be. I’ve made great change in my life by being in YouthBuild and hope to continue.” – Naythan Bivens

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YouthBuild Graduate: Jason Johnson

IMG_7043Jason Johnson enrolled in the final cohort of the 2011-2013 YouthBuild Grant. His team connected and supported each other through hardships and accomplishments. Jason earned his HBI PACT certification, GED, two AmeriCorps education awards and distinction in construction, transition, employment, education and leadership. He represented YouthBuild at the community college extended learning conference and served as a leader in our program.

YouthBuild construction supervisor Corey Fitch said, “I enjoyed working with Jason. He was always willing to ask questions and jump in if anyone needed help.” After graduating YouthBuild, Jason was selected for a full-time AmeriCorps position and was recently hired at White Water Creek construction.

“YouthBuild was a great chapter of my life. It improved my instincts and I learned that even if you come from the bottom you can stand up and rise. The YouthBuild staff gave me confidence and I learned that helping others both improves their homes and fills their lives with faith and hope. In this world there are good people.” – Jason Johnson

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