Sen. Murphy impressed by YouthBuild projects

By:  Jeff Gebeau
New Britain Herald

NEW BRITAIN — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., connected with participants in the city’s YouthBuild program Friday morning, surveying three homes in progress on Willow Street.

Relating stories about how his mother grew up poor in a New Britain housing project, Murphy said he relates with kids and young adults living in the city.

“I’m one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate, so I feel like I have an obligation to speak up for young people,” he said.

The senator said he was particularly impressed with the students’ dedication and hard work.

“You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t committed to making something of yourselves,” he said.

Paid for with federal dollars, YouthBuild connects young people who don’t have diplomas or GEDs with jobs in the construction field. New Britain’s eight-month program is supported by Capital Workforce Partners, New Britain Adult Education, the Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity and the Finishing Trades Institute of Southern New England.

Students entering the program must first finish a two-week orientation and enrichment program called Mental Toughness. After that, they spend Mondays through Thursdays of their first four weeks getting trained at the Finishing Trades Institute. They then alternate the remaining weeks between taking classes at New Britain Adult Education, working with Habitat for Humanity or receiving further instruction at the institute.

Students spend Fridays with Capital Workforce Partners and HRA representatives developing their workforce skills.

YouthBuild participant Marcelino Thillet said the program has helped him realize he can have a successful future, even if he’s had past struggles. Thillet completed the program Friday but was awarded an early promotion to assistant instructor in June. He will begin an apprenticeship at the Finishing Trades Institute.

“For me, YouthBuild has been a lifesaver,” he said. “Not only have they helped me turn my life around, they pushed me to do what I needed to do to get my life situated. Ever since my life has been going sky high.”
Students are admitted to YouthBuild in groups of seven. The seven who started in January got certificates Friday signifying their completion of the program, as well as receiving congratulations from Murphy. 

YouthBuild participants gave Murphy a tour of three partially-built homes they have been working on at 74, 80 and 86 Willow St., which are deep into construction. One of the houses is expected to be finished by the end of the year. The other two should be done by spring, said Bob Cassello, Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity director of construction.