HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- You've heard the saying -- "If you build it, they will come."
A local organization is hoping young high school dropouts will come in order to rebuild their lives.
It was a big day in Huntington on Friday. After suffering funding cuts and shutting down several years ago, YouthBuild is back and changing a whole new crop of lives -- lives like Rainha Lell's.
The young mother, her husband and their 6-month-old baby are homeless and living at the Huntington City Mission. Her downward slide started several years ago.
"My dad kicked me out and I had nowhere else to go," she says "So, I went to Florida to stay with family. But, after they found out I was pregnant, I got kicked out again ... Me and my boyfriend moved here, got married and tried to make (a) better life for ourselves."
She's part of a program now that will provide her some income and help her to earn her GED. On top of that, she's going to learn all about construction.
"I actually really wanted to do it because I wanted to prove to myself I could be as good as a boy," Lell says.
A group of about a dozen young people is working on a local apartment building. They're gutting the units and rebuilding from the ground up.
"They"re learning trades in carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, but overall they get a certificate saying they are skilled in basic construction," YouthBuild Coordinator Terance Hubbard says.
Cody Sammons surveyed the growing pile of supplies they'll be putting to good use very soon.
"It’s kind of like Christmas," he said. "It’s a little overwhelming, but we'll be alright; we'll get it."
Hubbard says, "YouthBuild is not just about construction, it's about changing young men and women's lives to make them become bigger and better people."
A better life is what J.D. Rowe desperately needs nearly four years after dropping out of the ninth grade.
"I'm broke," he says. "I got six kids. I'm married and got six kids, five of them are step kids. My wife is the only one that works, and I need an income."
Now, on a path toward earning his GED and experience in a trade, he's already seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
"I feel pretty good," Rowe says. "I just gotta get there so I can feel great."
His big brother, John Rowe, says, "When I first walked into this woodshop, I felt like I was in a strange place and didn't know nothing about none of it."
Now, he's getting the hang of things and inspiring J.D. to do the same.
John has access to state-of-the-art woodworking machinery funded by the state Department of Labor. But, even more importantly, he has the key to a bright new future.
"I never thought when I was dropping out of high school in the ninth grade and getting in trouble, that I’d be standing here a few years later talking about being a contractor and going to college," John said.
Lell says, "I would love a career in carpentry and working with wood and building tables and things."
But she is already seeing the fruits of her labor in other ways.
"'I'm not shy anymore because I know now I can ask someone for help and they're not judging me," she says. "They just want to help."
Each trainee stays in YouthBuild for one year. Aside from more than 1,000 hours spent learning construction, they spend another 1,000 hours in the classroom earning their GED. YouthBuild is a three-year grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor.
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