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Just-A-Start YouthBuild Celebrates its Class of 2015 Graduation

Entering the Bunker Hill Community College auditorium to the sound of Pomp & Circumstance and the applause of their family and friends, more than thirty young adults celebrated their graduation from the Just-A-Start YouthBuild program, earning their high school diplomas or HiSET certificates through the alternative education program.“I feel privileged to be part of the YouthBuild community,” said student speaker and diploma recipient Victor Santos Sosa. “I am proud to carry on the YouthBuild legacy on behalf of Just-A-Start and the students who have come before me.”
Sosa also thanked the JAS YouthBuild staff, his family, and his fellow graduates, reminding them that “it will not be easy, but stay hungry for success and be passionate.”
Fellow student speaker and HiSet recipient Tiffany May echoed his feelings about Youthbuild.
“One of my favorite things about YouthBuild is that we were like one big family,” May said. “We always try to help each other and motivate one another.”
The graduation program opened with welcoming remarks from JAS Executive Director Deborah Ruhe, followed by Program Director Dolores Ortiz and student speakers, a slideshow of the past year, and the JAS touting the accomplishments of each graduating student. The ceremony concluded with the entire class reciting the YouthBuild pledge, led by graduate Danny Lopez-Nacho.
“You are an example of reciliency and triumph,” Ortiz said to the graduation class. “This is an accomplishment that no one will ever be able to take away from you.”
The mission of the JAS YouthBuild program is to develop the skills and abilities of youth in order to maximize their opportunities for personal growth and productive citizenship. This is accomplished through education, skills training, guidance, exposure to different cultural ideas, and the building of confidence while involving them in the provision of real community services in Chelsea, Cambridge and surrounding Metro-North communities. JAS YouthBuild is a partner of Youthbuild USA, Americorps, and Massachusetts Service Alliance.
Diploma recipients: Rosa Alvarez, Victor Barahona, Filomena Chavez, Christian Garcia, Jeffrey Gratini, Danny Lopez-Nacho, Juan Meza, Adam Nur, Anthony Ortiz, Cristian Perdomo, Mayra Romero, Vanessa Salazar, Victor Santos-Sosa, Luis Luna Torres.
HiSET certificate recipients: Arles Amaya, Shaunte Avery, Lisette Barahona, Cody Bernard, Kelvin Calderon, Jorge Carcamo, Karen Cedeno, Elijah Clarke, Jan Gonzalez, Alex Iraola, Elvis Justiniano, Orlando Laboy, Tiffany May, Mario Pereira, Oscar Ramos, Gabriel Rosario, Kency Rivera, Norman Kennedy Taylor, Chad Tene, Jacqueline Valladares, Hinmar Villanueva.

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John Altidor, Case Manager, JAS YouthBuild and former Career Connection and Summer Youth Enrichment Program Participant

John Altidor, Case Manager, JAS YouthBuild and former Career Connection and Summer Youth Enrichment Program Participant

John Altidor’s parents came to Cambridge from Haiti in 1997, when he was 9 years old.

John faced challenges adjusting to school in the U.S., and he wasn’t able to do as well as he wanted academically. In eighth grade, a career counselor told John about Just-A-Start’s programs for academic support and career assistance, and he decided to check them out. One part of Career Connection that appealed to John was that while you are received academic support, you also had the opportunity to get a paying job, so he decided to enroll in the program. John also took part in the Summer Youth Enrichment Program, so he was participating in Just-A-Start programs year-round. Career Connection helped John build friendships and positive relationships and keep him out of trouble, which in turn helped him excel in school. Because of his hard work and the dedication of staff at Just-A-Start, John was awarded five college scholarships. John says that “without the hard work of Just-A-Start staff members helping me to get those scholarship applications turned in, I wouldn’t have been this successful.” After completing high school, John studied at Newbury College, and while he was in college, John started working at Just-A-Start part-time as a Vocational Counselor for Career Connection. After completing his degree, John continued to work at Just-A-Start full-time for the TeenWork program, helping high school students prepare for employment and gain work experience. Seven years later, in 2016, John was promoted to become a Case Manager for JAS YouthBuild, continuing to support youth who need help to find the right path in life.

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Adam Nur, 2015 JAS YouthBuild Graduate

Adam Nur, 2015 JAS YouthBuild Graduate

Sometimes you lose your way and you need help to get on the right path. That is what YouthBuild did for me.

Adam Nur was born in Cambridge to parents who had emigrated from Somalia and spent much of his early years traveling between homes in North Cambridge and Somalia. Due to frequent travel, Adam was in formal school intermittently. Adam finished eighth grade in Cambridge and then moved Somalia where he started working with his father. At 17, Adam decided to move back to the U.S. to finish school, without his parents. Luckily, Adam’s Uncle lived in East Cambridge, and he was able to live with him. When he first returned to Cambridge, Adam went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School to try to enroll. He learned that he would have to start as a freshman, and probably wouldn’t be able to graduate until he was in his early 20s. To try to complete high school earlier, Adam found a GED program and enrolled full-time. However, everyone in the program was much older, and Adam didn’t feel like he fit in and wanted to find something different. The Principal of the GED program contacted JAS YouthBuild and learnd that the program was accepting students. Adam went straight to JAS YouthBuild to learn more. After arriving at the program, Adam was excited to learn that he could get a high school diploma in two years, not just a GED. He was also liked that the program offered the opportunity to earn AmeriCorps Education Awards through community service, which could help pay for college. During “mental toughness” orientation, Adam got to know a lot of his fellow students, made many friends, and learned to open up. Every morning, Adam would wake up excited to come to JAS YouthBuild, and his good attendance showed how much he liked being at the program. In 2015, Adam graduated and received his high school diploma. After graduation, JAS YouthBuild staff worked with Adam to help him research college programs, and he was very excited about a program at Syracuse University that collaborates with NASA. After learning more and visiting Syracuse, Adam decided to enroll in courses at Onondaga Community College (OCC), which has a program that allows students to automatically transfer to Syracuse University to complete a bachelor’s degree after two successful years at OCC. Now Adam lives on campus and is on the track team. He is majoring in Computer Science, and he is currently looking for summer internships as he is finishing up his first semester. “Sometimes you lose your way and you need help to get on the right path. That is what YouthBuild did for me.”

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