YouthBuild Celebrates 35th Anniversary
October 2 marked the celebration of Youthbuild’s 35th anniversary. For 35 years, YouthBuild has been helping low-income young people ages 16 to 24 work full-time for 6 to 24 months toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. Erica Lee Muniz, a YouthBuild student, presented her story at the lunch session of the event. Click here to watch a video of Erica's story, also written below:
I am 22 years old and I just graduated from Brooklyn’s Dreams YouthBuild program on June 28, 2013. During the eight months I attended YouthBuild, I obtained my GED, OSHA certification, National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCR), and I am currently attending my second semester in MEC electrical training.
I also realized what I want to be in life. In March 2013 I got a chance of a lifetime; I was able to go to Washington D.C. to attend a YouthBuild conference for young leaders. During my stay I overheard a conference member speaking about being a “product of my environment” and began to wonder if people use that phrase as an excuse for their behavior or character. I noticed that I too am a product of my environment - I am string-willed, determined, fearless, ambitious, and more. I gained these characteristics from the very environment I was raised and brought up in. Since I was a child I have had these qualities instilled in me, but I didn’t quite know how to use them to the best of my ability.
I have always been a leader, just not the best one. I went down many paths that led me and those who followed me into trouble. I was searching for something that seemed unattainable. I believed that this world was full of nothing other than anger, hatred, violence, and hurt. But today I stand before you with a different view.
I now see the beauty in everything. My dream is to become a teacher in urban communities, like the one in which I grew up, in order to give children some hope. I want them to also see the beauty in themselves. I want to give back to these communities everything they’ve been stripped of growing up.
I’m a prime example that shows with a little hope, love, faith, and dedication, you can help not only an individual, but an entire community in need of a real leader. Today I am a great leader who no longer leads followers but true leaders in search of a brighter tomorrow. Today I stand prouder than ever at my transition and I know my destiny is to return the gift of hope YouthBuild has given me. This is the dream YouthBuild has shown me through their everlasting example. I will not let this be a dream deferred.
Thank you YouthBuild, and thank you to everyone who supports such an incredible organization. It is because of your support that I am able to have a better tomorrow, and so is my son. I promise to keep pushing hard because you have pushed my expectations to a whole new level. I promise to reach for the moon, because even if I fall short I’ll be among the stars.