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YouthBuild: I Transformed a Home, but the Experience Transformed My Life

by Ciera Russum

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of Labor blog on Aug. 16, 2012.

My name is Ciera Russum and I'm a member of the Advanced Construction team at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. We worked with the Green Building team to complete a full-gut rehab project on Greene Street.

In the past year, this house was completely transformed. So was my life. When I first saw the house, there were holes in the floor and the wallpaper was peeling all the way down to the brick. It was literally an abandoned house. I had a lot of doubts about whether I could complete the program, and a lot of doubts about whether a group of inexperienced students could rebuild the home.

The home on Greene Street before the YouthBuild Philadelphia renovation project.

Thanks to our instructors, the Saint-Gobain Corporation Foundation and the building scientists at CertainTeed, we've learned new building skills that have opened my eyes to what I can do with my life. Sometimes this year I would come home from working on the house and try out things I'd learned on my mom's house – like fixing a hole in her ceiling! Before YouthBuild I'd never even picked up a piece of pipe in my life; now I will be attending Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in the fall to study plumbing. (Editor's note: YouthBuild is a grantee of the Corporation for National and Community Service and supported by AmeriCorps.)

While we've refurbished the house on Greene Street, we've also refurbished our lives at YouthBuild. I've learned important life skills like teamwork, time management, and being able to trust others. I have learned how to take criticism, and how to be a leader who is responsible for the success of a project.

Working on the Greene Street Project has given me so much confidence. I had doubted that we could succeed in rebuilding this house, but we did it and it looks amazing. This makes me imagine all the things I used to doubt, that I actually can do.

This house makes me feel like I can do just about anything.

More than 125 students from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School partnered with Saint Gobain Corporation Foundation and in less than 18 months successfully reconstructed a home in Philadelphia's Germantown area.

Ciera Russum is a student in the Advanced Construction program at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

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