See why Portland YouthBuilders’ students, staff members, and folks from ROSE Community Development all celebrated the positive results of this project …
Nick Sauvie, Executive Director of Rose Community Development Corp, and PYB Project Manager Bill Kowalczyk, tell about the importance of this project to their respective organizations.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Earlier this year, a unique outer East Portland educational institution, Portland YouthBuilders (PYB), broke ground and started building a new single-family house in the Lents Neighborhood. (Read more about the project and PYB by CLICKING HERE.)
Students and their families, instructors, and representatives from the developer, ROSE Community Development Corp., got together at the newly-completed home on December 10th to celebrate their accomplishment.
Turns tax-foreclosed property into community asset
“We first acquired the property in 2003,” noted Nick Sauvie, Executive Director of ROSE Community Development Corp. “With the help of Portland Community Land Trust, we are able to sort through a variety of issues and get started earlier this year.”
Sauvie said that ROSE was the project’s contractor and developer. “We got PYB involved as the builder; they provide training and career development opportunities for young people.”
The third partner in this project is Portland Community Land Trust (PCLT), Sauvie added. “Their participation makes sure that this home will be owner-occupied, and permanently affordable to moderate-income families.” (CLICK HERE to learn more about the PCLT,)
PYB instructor beams with pride
The building project manager, PYB’s Bill Kowalczyk, was all smiles at the open house. He recalled talking with us as their crew prepared to pour the home’s foundation earlier. “It’s really a fun thing to see a house be built from the ground up. And it’s rewarding to watch the kids transform into better citizens, as they go through the process of building a house.”
Kowalczyk noted that he observed students as they walked around the completed house. “You can see they feel moved by what they accomplished, and are incredibly proud of their work. A couple of our students are ready to move out of the program and into their next steps in life. I’m really excited about that for them.”
PYB is important, Kowalczyk said, because he feels that many of students are not fully served by the school system, and by society. “We are a school that provides a structure, a learning environment, where there is lots of interaction between staff and students. It helps them grow as people.”
Alex Butler, a student with Portland YouthBuilders, says the program helped him learn new skills and stay out of gangs.
Builds a new life while building a home
Outside the new home, we spoke with PYB student Alex Butler. “I’ve had a little experience, but I’ve learned a lot in this program. I’ve worked on landscaping, and doing trim finishing,” Butler said.
Butler credited his mother for going into – and returning to – PYB. “I got involved after I heard about it from a friend of mine; he said it was a good for people who dropped out of school. Coming here help me get rid of a lot of bad habits. I left the first time; I kept being late.”
His mom urged him to go back and try again, Butler said. “I was influenced to hang out in gangs. I would probably be out ‘banging it’ if not for PYB. I have a friend – he’s like the big brother to me, who I don’t have – but he’s in jail. He’s been telling me to stay with this, and not to join the gangs. I look up to him, and I took his advice and stayed with the program.”
Program builds character
In parting, Kowalczyk told us, “The most important thing we teach students is patterns of behavior that help students succeed when they come out our program. We don’t really focus on teaching sophisticated construction skills. We focus on the basics, and also help provide experiences that help kids become good workers and good citizens.”
If you know of a student, or a family with a student, who could benefit from the Portland YouthBuilder program, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.
© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News