East Texas youth leave mistakes in the past and work towards brighter future

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's a second chance most youth don't ever get. A chance to leave their mistakes in the past, get an education and learn a trade that will help them build better future.

The YouthBuild program has been around for a while but it's the first of its kind in East Texas. The program started in 1978 in Harlem, New York and has since expanded to 273 YouthBuild programs across 49 states.

The YouthBuild of the PineyWoods is a training program for young people that have been in trouble with the law to learn the construction industry and get an education.

"I came from the streets. I had nothing. I've got priors. I've got drug cases and always been in trouble," said 24-year-old Laaron Long of Nacogdoches.

Long says he didn't know what path to go down but when he heard about YouthBuild and got a chance to change his life…he took it.

It was either this or back to jail or maybe to a graveyard somewhere," said Long. "I come to better myself. It's a good program. A good support staff. I come off the streets because I have nothing to do. I feel like construction would be a career."

28 youths with troubled pasts from Nacogdoches and Angelina counties are rededicating their lives to something positive.

YouthBuild program manager, Nikki Roberts says the students will spend 11-months getting educated and getting hands-on construction experience.

Roberts says, "They are in a training program where they learn a construction industry trade and get their credentials in the construction field as well as get their basic education as in increasing their skills or getting their GED."

22-year-old Stephanie Sargent from Etoile is the only female in the program and says youth build makes her day worthwhile.

"I can't wait to get up in the morning and get up here and see what I get to learn and get to do," said Sargent. "You get hands on working experience. You get to meet new people. You work with other people you would never even dream of working with and just giving back to the community, that's something you don't get to do too often."

Sargent says "I've learned some things that I never thought I would know, construction. My dad's a construction worker and after I get done with this hopefully I get to go out there with him and show him, hey us women, we can do it too."

The students are currently working on building their workshop, from the ground up, at Goodwill Industries in Lufkin.

Mentors teach them every part of the construction process from measuring, cutting and how to use tools properly but they're getting more out of it than just the obvious.

Roberts says the students are, "Learning different team building skills, how to open up, how to work with each other, learning different components of the program and a lot of other crazy things we had them do just to see if they would really stick it out and see if they would really go the extra mile."

21-year-old Jahvincent Crain of Lufkin says, "It's an opportunity in life. I come from a long way. I come from the streets. It's giving me something to do. A change. Something different."

All the students have long-term goals like getting construction job, owing their own business or going to college and YouthBuild will help them achieve their goals and stay out of trouble.

At the end of the month, The YouthBuild students will start using their construction skills to build Habitat for Humanity homes in Angelina and Nacogdoches county for families in need

Roberts says they have a few spots still open in the program and those interested in the application process can call Goodwill.

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