United Community Corporation YouthBuild Celebrates Largest Class of Young Program Graduates
Ny’jahmir Mickens walked across the room from Weequahic Park Community Center in Newark and accepted his high school equivalency diploma.
The 18-year-old turned to the crowd of friends and families of the 18 Leaders For Life graduates, looked at his one-year-old daughter and shouted, “Daddy did this for you.”
“It was really beautiful,” said Nasyr Lynn, current YouthBuild student and graduate speaker. “I’m all about positivity. Watching him take that step growing up was very emotional.”
Mickens was one of four United Community Corporation YouthBuild students (Falon Newman, Zakar Kee and Javiel Galindo) who received their diplomas at the ceremony in late December.
They are UCC YouthBuild’s largest class since registration began in September 2020.
“Every step is extremely encouraging,” said YouthBuild Director Jacqueline Henry. “It’s like a proud moment for my mother. It’s watching my baby – for lack of a better term – grow from infancy.”
“This is such an important time not only for the students, but also for the program and for the agency as a whole,” she continued.
Lynn had gone through the same process as this year’s four graduates just over a year ago when he received his degree in November 2020.
Since then, he has enrolled in UCC’s YouthBuild construction training program with the goal of becoming a master electrician.
In less than a year with the program, he has earned First Aid/CPR certification, Lead-Safe certification, OSHA certification, and is working with UCC’s Lead-Safe Homes program to conduct outreach.
He is also Vice President of the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) Alumni Association.
Being selected to speak at the event was a milestone that Lynn will never forget.
“When I was writing my speech, I was thinking about my graduation. After I graduated from high school, I didn’t want to sit down and get comfortable,” he said.
“I wanted to keep pushing myself and keep pushing. I wanted everyone to know to keep pushing. Graduating from high school doesn’t mean stopping, it means keeping moving forward.”
All current UCC graduates follow this advice for a variety of reasons.
Mickens was inspired by his daughter and wasn’t the only parent to cross the stage. Classmate Falon Newman is a mother of a six-year-old child.
The two have found a balance between parenthood and school with the help and guidance of Henry, who has provided them with a bit of a road map.
“I’m so proud of them, and it’s so personal to me because I became a mom when I was in college,” Henry said.
“I understand the struggles of being a young parent and having statistics against you. As I celebrate my son, who is now 23 and working on his second master’s degree, I celebrate each of UCC YouthBuild’s graduates.
By sharing my story with our participants, I want to be an example of hope to let them know that this is just the beginning and that their children are really watching.
If they stay the course, push harder on the days when they really don’t feel like pushing, I hope one day they too can sit down and watch their child’s success because that’s what that they model.”
There are many role models in UCC’s YouthBuild program, from Henry to fellow instructors Darian Harris, Tasmeya Hall and Milly Martinez.
Martinez has been with UCC YouthBuild since February and is currently in her final semester at Kean University to pursue a degree in psychology. She often shares with students how she manages to balance studies and work.
In addition to UCC YouthBuild staff, many students have found mentors in program partners as well as learning and peer mentors.
Galindo is following in Lynn’s footsteps in the construction program and has already earned her forklift and lead safety certifications.
At 16, Kee was the program’s youngest graduate. After realizing that the traditional school system was not working for him, he joined YouthBuild.
He now has a high school diploma, is in YouthBuild’s full-time construction training program, and is preparing for high school.
YouthBuild’s goal is to prepare students for their future and empower them to create their own path.
While the National Curriculum is highly regarded for its job training and certification programs, YouthBuild also emphasizes secondary education if that is a path the student chooses.
“Through the nationwide YouthBuild brand, many alumni are continuing their high school education,” Henry said. “YouthBuild USA has scholarships for alumni who want to go to college.
At UCC YouthBuild, we work closely with our participants and are in constant communication with Essex County College to create pipelines for our youth so that once they complete their training, they can go on to college. .”
In addition to working with Leaders For Life and Essex County College to meet educational needs, YouthBuild offers pre-apprenticeship training programs in construction, computer technology, and medical and dental technology.
After completing pre-apprenticeship, the young adult will work with YouthBuild’s job developer to find the right placement and work with an alumni specialist/mentor for a year as they step into their new field.
YouthBuild is currently accepting interest forms online at https://uccnewark.org/youth-build. Inquiries can also be made by emailing [email protected] or calling 973-642-0181 EXT 5707.