At-risk youth giving thanks to their East Texas donors

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A group of troubled youth who have been given a second chance in life had the opportunity to meet State Rep. Trent Ashby today along with organizations that have made donations to their program. Many students have already received their GED and have started taking college courses.

Thanks to many different East Texas organizations Youth Build has helped 28 students ages 18 to 24 obtain skills for a life time.

"You can see over a period of time that they really come into their own, and many of them have already gotten GEDs and they're progressing through this process to help build their lives," said president of the Deep East Texas Association of Builders Rick Renfro. "It's a great, great opportunity. This is a very unique program. There's only like four in the United States."

Christian Perez and Marquis Edwards joined Youth Build in January. They recently received their GEDs, started taking classes at Angelina College, and hope to soon be a part of the military.

"I mean there are so many opportunities and open gates to do different things," Marquis Edwards said. "I've done a lot of stuff in my life to make me a better person. It made people look at me more positive than they used to."

Trent Ashby gave each student encouraging words during Thursday's luncheon.

This was also the first time many Youth Build students had the chance to meet members from McCoys Building Materials and DETAB that have made this program possible through providing tools and materials.

"We'd like to let them know that we really appreciate what they do and what they've done for us," Christian Perez said. "None of this would have been possible without them and the money they've donated."

Erica Ross joined youth build a few months ago as a young Nacogdoches mother hoping to finish her GED. She's one of two women in the program.

"It's pretty amazing because you don't have too many programs that give you a second chance," Ross said. "It feels great giving back. It lets my son know I'm doing something that's right."

All of the students said they are thankful for a program that is pushing them in the right direction to build a brighter future.

Many of them will walk the stage for the first time as graduates.

A new group of Youth Build students will begin the program in 2014.

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