Graduates Building Futures

YouthBuild San Joaquin's 10-year anniversary celebrated at SJBFA graduation

In its 10 years, YouthBuild San Joaquin has given more than 400 young men and women a second chance at success, teaching them a trade and helping them connect to good-paying jobs through partnerships with the labor and business communities.

YouthBuild students all attend the San Joaquin Building Futures Academy (SJBFA), which held its graduation ceremony on May 24 for the Class of 2017. A charter school operated by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE), SJBFA has a focus on the construction trades that offers a second chance for youth and young adults ages 16-24 to earn their high school diploma or GED.

"No matter how hard the struggle, all things are possible," said SJBFA grad and commencement speaker Gloria, one of two graduate speakers.

Monica, the other speaker, looked out at the graduates and said: "What I see is one less statistic." An SJBFA grad an YouthBuild participant, she talked about the construction and leadership skills she learned as well as her struggles to get to graduation. She said she wasn't alone. "Aren't we all glad we all stuck together? After all, this isn't a 'me' thing. It's a 'we' thing."

This year, 63 SJBFA students graduated. It was the school's seventh class of graduates, with 30 YouthBuild students among them. YouthBuild San Joaquin had its start before SJBFA.

In 2006, the program had 20 participants, and they shared facilities with the Sierra Vista Community Center, part of the Housing Authority of San Joaquin. YouthBuild students helped gut and build back up the facility at 3100 Monte Diablo Drive in Stockton into the SJBFA campus.Working closely with trade unions, local businesses, and other organizations, Youth Build San Joaquin has continued to grow and add services to help its participants and the wider community.

 "For 10 years, Youth Build San Joaquin has improved the lives of young people by giving them a second chance to turn their lives around and finding opportunities to obtain good careers in the construction trades," Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas said.

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor considers YouthBuild San Joaquin one of the highest performing YouthBuild programs in the state and nation. So far, more than 50 YouthBuild participants have gone on to apprenticeships -- an important step toward a good-paying career in the trades. The local YouthBuild participants are recognized as young leaders in Washington D.C., and in San Joaquin County the program has completed more than 22,000 hours of community service and helped build nine affordable homes with Habitat for Humanity since becoming part of the national AmeriCorps program. In 2015, YouthBuild San Joaquin partnered with Head Start of San Joaquin and Child Abuse Prevention Council to open an on-site daycare center for infants and toddlers.  That same year, the program organized its first annual Women in Construction conference in partnership with tradeswomen in the region.

The 10-year-anniversary of the local program is coupled with the retiring of its founder, Sheila Goulart, SJCOE director of community partnerships. SJBFA director Doug Silva marked both occasions at the graduation and presented Goulart with a bouquet of flowers.

"You've change the lives of so many young people by really allowing them to really find themselves," he said.

Goulart also spoke to the graduates, reminding them how they've been able to turn their "obstacles into opportunities." She reminded them that the teachers they've had along the way have been more than that. They've been advisors. And she told the students they still were not alone. "Just remember one thing. We are only a phone call or a text message away," she said.

She also invited them to keep in touch so they could share their newfound successes with the next generation of SJBFA and YouthBuild students.

Follow this link to a YouTube video showing the importance of partners to the success of YouthBuild San Joaquin.

Posted: 5/24/2017