The Youthbuild Program has arrived in Yazoo City in an effort to provide local youth with vocational skills, job training and the pursuit of a higher education.
Dawn Dodd, job developer with the program, said the youth-driven program is geared towards at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24. She said the program, which falls under the local non-profit Gateway Community Development Corporation, is designed to assist youth attain their GED or high school diploma, as well as training in construction fields and leadership skills.
Dodd said the benefits of joining the program would be securing a diploma through Holmes Community College, attaining a job, starting their own business or earning certification in various fields. The program also assists in resume writing. Participants can also receive an Occupational Safety and Health National Certification.
"We have had young people work with an Unicorp construction company to get hands-on experience,” Dodd said. “Unicorp shows them skills they can utilize that enabled them to have a part in helping with the Fouche Apartment development, as well as with Delta Circle and Woolwine apartments.”
Dodd said Gateway also purchased a home that allowed the youth to have additional hands-in training.
“We hire construction workers to show them steps,” Dodd said. “Once these young people attain their certification, they can become high school graduates and find a job.”
Dodd admits that there have been challenges in the midst of the COVID pandemic. But she said the program was able to purchase computers to implement virtual learning.
“Although there have been challenges, we have been 85 percent successful in our efforts to help others,” Dodd said.
The program has been active since 2019 and currently has about 21 students participating in the program. Core members include Case manager Latoya Lowe, CEO Alpresteon Billings, Job Developer Dawn Dodd and Program Manager Greg Riley. Other members include Shanitra Finley, Micheal Wilson, Katie Evans, Curtis Strong and John Meeks.