Program to help dropouts build a better future

2013-10-22T00:00:00Z Program to help dropouts build a better futureBy Joseph Treviño Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

For Adrienne Medina things simply did not work out after toiling for four years in high school,

She made the decision to drop out, knowing that she might become one more statistic.

But now, Medina is about to get a second chance at high school and a crack at her dreams of becoming a pharmacist .

She is set to be part of the first GED class in YouthBuild, a new program by Portable Practical Educational Preparation, or PPEP.  The nonprofit, which has worked for more than four decades with farmworkers,  is poised to begin a high school program on the south side.

“I just couldn’t do it. There was so much going on. I eventually dropped out. I actually want to get stuff done. The  GED is my second opportunity,” Medina said recently at the warehouse that will be turned into classrooms at 47th Street (near East Benson Highway and South Park Avenue). “I find that it’s a good opportunity. It’s a good way for me to start out.”

YouthBuild officials came up with the idea to help adolescents like Medina after creating successful programs in Yuma and Los Angeles via GED and high school graduation programs with at-risk youth, said John David Arnold, the founder of PPEP. The response was YouthBuild.

“What happens to those students who need a very last chance to learn?” asked Arnold. “Most of all, when young people graduate, where do they go? This is an opportunity to give young people a last chance to learn.”

Similar to a program in Yuma, YouthBuild initially will recruit 32 students, divide them into two groups and rotate them every week: One group will be studying in classrooms and computer labs, while the other  group will go to worksites and build homes for the poor with the help of master builders.

YouthBuild officials, at an event Thursday announcing the program, were pumped up about getting their school started. Representatives from the mayor’s office, congressional offices and from nonprofits helping the program attended the kickoff reception.

Compass Affordable Housing, Chicanos Por la Causa and Pima Community Land Trust and other groups are aiding the program. YouthBuild is funded by a $1.1 million grant  from the Department of Labor . Classes are set to start by Nov. 12.

At Thursday’s event, rows of black computers were ready, while at a nearby table some books about philosophy and government were waiting to be read, next to “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and a coffee-table tome, “People: Celebrate the 80s.”

After the students complete their studies — they will receive a stipend when they go out to work — they will get a full graduation ceremony, said Kari Hogan, PPEP’s chief administrative officer. She said the program is diverse, full of hope, filled with the proven know-how of turning students into polished, skilled, go-getting future professionals.

“It’s not about us, the adults: It’s about the young people and getting them involved in their own future,” she said.

Contact reporter Joseph Treviño at jtrevino@azstarnet.com or 807-8029.

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