You could say they're in the restoration business. A construction crew with a difference is refurbishing a house for a low-income Tulsa family. Some of the workers are involved in the Youthbuild program and fixing more than walls and plumbing. They're trying to restore their lives. Youthbuild provides at-risk youth between the ages of 17 and 24 with vocational training, counseling and study toward a high school diploma.
The only requirement is a willingness to change. "As I always tell each student when I meet them: `I see you as you come in the door. Doesn't matter to me what you've done in the past. I just want to know you have the dedication to change and make a positive direction with your life'," says Tamara Byer, Youthbuild manager.
Youthbuild has a contract with Tulsa Vo-Tech to teach students construction skills. They work on houses for the poor and homeless half a day, then work on academics and computer skills. James Watson is proud of his progress.
"I guess I've been through a lot in my past and I feel like this program will help me be a better individual in society," said Watson. Robert Rotramel said he'd recommend Youthbuild to any young person with the need for a positive path. "I'd tell them it's a real good place. They'd learn a lot here. A lot of people are trying to help people here and they're doing a real good job at it," he said.
Vo-tech instructor John Madison is also a believer in Youthbuild. "This is an opportunity, in my opinion, of a lifetime, because you're not only learning skills you can use as a father and husband but also build a career out of this. You can go anywhere in the United States and get a job using these skills," said Madison.
Youthbuild intends to convince young people they can go anywhere with education, hard work and responsibility. Youthbuild is now taking applications for a new class beginning in September. For more information, call 587-5307. "Youthbuild" is a collaboration between the Tulsa Housing Authority and Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce.