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YouthBuild Program changing lives of young people, homeowner

GRANGER - The air is filled with the sound of hammers hitting nails, a table saw being used for cutting lumber and the voices of young men and women learning a trade they can build their future on. The youngsters range in age from 16 to 23 and the project they are working on will help them earn a GED or high school diploma. But, it's much more than that, according to Eddie Mendoza of Grandview, who is participating in the YouthBuild Program. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Labor. It is a partnership between Habitat for Humanity, YV-Tech Skills Center in Yakima and Northwest Community Action Center, according to instructor Steve Robles. Mendoza said he is building a home, but he is also building his future. "I like construction." He said learning a trade like construction is rewarding. Through the process of building a home for someone else, he can see the result of his labors. Mendoza said he chose to participate in the YouthBuild Program because he is seeking to earn a GED so that he can join the military. For just more than a week he and approximately 20 other students in the program have been working on a new home being constructed in Granger. They are working side-by-side with the future homeowner, developing bonds. The walls to the home were constructed by the youngsters in YouthBuild last week. The day that happened was Mendoza's first day on the job site, but he said he learned many valuable skills in that single day. "I learned how to complete framing and how to install walls," he said. "I am learning communication skills that are important for safety and for life," said Mendoza. Another important asset that he said he can take from his experience is the importance of teamwork. Robles agrees that teamwork is important. He is a carpenter by trade and believes it is important the youngsters participating in the YouthBuild Program learn what it is like in the real world. The Habitat for Humanity home is an opportunity for them to gain experience. "I treat the students as they would be treated on any other job site," said Robles. "I told them all that I would treat them like my own grandchildren...with blunt honesty." The project in Granger, he said, is the first YouthBuild project with which YV-Tech has been involved. Robles said it's important for the students to work on such a project because it provides them an opportunity to put to use skills he taught them in a classroom setting. "They can see how their skills benefit others...in training it can be boring, but this gives the students an opportunity to see the fruits of their labor," said Robles. He said the Habitat for Humanity project is also beneficial because the youngsters can directly see the impact they are having on the lives of others.

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