Tino is a 20 year-old gang member who was one of our very first applicants for YouthBuild. After attending our orientation, he was so excited about the program that he recruited two of his friends and encouraged them to apply. His friends were not as motivated as Tino, and decided the program wasn’t for them. Nevertheless, Tino was undeterred, and became part of our first YouthBuild class.
Just six weeks later, the power of that decision became powerfully evident. Tino had demonstrated such leadership in the program that he was elected by his peers to represent them on the Youth Policy Council. His attendance, attitude, and work habits were exemplary. He had become a bold and eloquent spokesperson for the group, and frequently leading group discussions with maturity and wisdom.
While Tino was working hard to finish high school, learn the construction trade, and become a leader in his community, his two friends who chose not to join YouthBuild were shot down and killed in gang violence, just a few days apart from one another. Tino acknowledges that had it not been for YouthBuild, he probably would have been killed, too.
YouthBuild is saving lives. It is a community where young men and women find belonging, safety, and accomplishment. YouthBuild is a way to find a new life. As Tino’s story reminds us, the other options are deadly.