Cosanne Mistretta at 321-433-7477


Contact:  John J. Glisch, Associate Vice President, Communications
Office:  321-433-7017  Cell: 321-794-0324

Federal Grant Boosts BCC’s YouthBuild Program

August 30, 2012 - Changing lives and saving them, too.

That has been the story of the YouthBuild program at Brevard Community College, which has helped at-risk youth earn a GED and learn job skills since 2007.

The program received an important boost Aug. 29 when the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $1.1 million grant to continue it three more years.

That will give students age 16-24 who have dropped out of high school, been in trouble with the juvenile justice system or are leaving foster care the chance to have a successful future that might otherwise be lost.

“It’s a transformational program. It allows young people to see their potential and then follow through. It changes lives,” says Cosanne Mistretta, BCC’s YouthBuild director.

Kashara Bailey, Steven Ledesma and Maurice Sanders, shown left to right, are among the local students who have benefited from the YouthBuild program.

Among those who have benefitted is Steven Ledesma, 19, of Cocoa, who says YouthBuild was his “last chance” after he was expelled from Rockledge High School in 2009.

“Without this program I’d be dead or in jail or something. I never thought I would be in college,” says Ledesma, now a BCC freshman pursuing his general A.A. degree after passing the GED in 2011.

“I was still in trouble when I started the program and it was a struggle, but the staff and the other students were there for me and got me through that stressful time.”

Like all YouthBuild students, Ledesma split his time between the classroom and a paying job at a Habitat for Humanity construction site.
That helped him mature and turn his back on bad choices.

“It brings you into the working world and that was rewarding,” says Ledesma, who still checks in at the YouthBuild office on the Cocoa Campus to focus on homework.

“It felt great to achieve something positive and have the next step be something I never thought would happen because I never thought I’d be in college.”

Kashara Bailey, 23, from Merritt Island, had a stroke at 14, underwent brain surgery and then graduated from Cocoa High School, but it was with a special diploma that did not allow her to go on to college. With help from YouthBuild, she passed the GED in May 2011 and is now a BCC freshman working on the computer specialist certificate program.

“YouthBuild changed my attitude a lot and helped me change my life,” said Bailey. “I had a bad attitude before and got mad quickly. If I had not heard about the program, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. They never gave up on me.”

Maurice Sanders has also seen his life turnaround.

He entered YouthBuild at age 24 in 2007 after falling behind in school and getting involved in drugs.

“It was the best feeling to get that GED,” says Sanders, who expects to finish his A.A. degree at BCC in 2013 with a concentration in broadcast production.

“It’s going to be unbelievable for me to walk across that stage in May. I had no GED and started from scratch and am about to have an A.A. I’d like to get a job and also work on a bachelor’s degree in the business area.

“I love coming to school. I have so much more hope now so I have stayed away from trouble. It’s time to get things accomplished.”

The grant provides funds for another 65 students to enter the program, adding to the roster of 111 past graduates.

A new component will help students better prepare for the transition to college after completion or get additional help finding a job.

In all, the Labor Department awarded $75 million in YouthBuild grants across the nation, including to three other organizations in Florida that also received about $1.1 million each.

They are the Florida Institute for Workforce Innovation in Gainesville, Greater Miami Service Corps and Housing Authority of the City of Tampa.

BCC YouthBuild staff are coordinating plans for the next class, which they hope to begin later this fall. Information about the program is available by calling 321-433-7477 or 321-433-7383.