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Richmond YouthWORKS program gets new facility

on May 10, 2012

The construction won’t be complete until June, but staff at the Richmond YouthWORKS program are already excited about taking ownership of a new 13-room facility at the corner 27th and Macdonald Streets directly opposite St. Cornelius Church.

The smell of fresh paint was in the air Tuesday morning as Jay Leonhardy, project coordinator for youth services, walked around the facility showing off the new space to Councilman Corky Booze.

The much-anticipated facility has more space than the current headquarters near Civic Center Plaza, which is a bonus, Leonhardy said. Now, there is enough space to accommodate separate community rooms for the young people, which helps them to streamline their activities, while also creating a safe haven youth in the community, he said.

“This the first time in more than a decade we will have all of our programs under one roof,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for the youth.”

Councilman Corky Booze and Jay Leonhardy taking a tour of the new Richmond YouthWORKS facility.

Leonhardy and Booze casually discussed plans to remove a vault from the facility while volunteers from Richmond Build and Youth Build Richmond, two community construction organizations, busied themselves replacing sheetrock and installing windows.

Turner Group Construction (TGC) was hired to oversee the $100,000 renovation. To complete the work, the company hired graduates from the two programs to build classroom space and upgrade the facility, which will be used for an after school tutoring and academic support program for students 18 and younger, as well as, a high school vocational and service learning program for people ages 14 to 24. Students in most of the programs concentrate on keeping their grades up, passing their high school exit exam and learning community service and vocational skills that can help them land a job.

In the new building, students will have a computer lab to search for employment opportunities and complete their homework. Muir Career Academy, a small high school started by Richmond YouthWORKS, will have separate space within the building.

Nigel Armstrong gets ready to discuss construction plans with workers at the site.

Muir Academy is a school for West Contra Costa County residents between the ages of 16 to 24 who need help completing their high school education, Leonhardy said. Students at the high school are required to complete high school credits through the program or gain college credits through a partnership with the Contra Costa Community College. The school offers vocational training in fields like health, hospitality and green construction. They also help to place students in jobs once their training is complete.

This summer, staring in June, 250 young adults will be assigned work placements across the city. Work placement sites include Congressman George Miller’s Office, California Youth Energy Services, where young people will support staff in home energy audits and the Contra Costa County School District for positions as classroom support staff for summer school.

Richmond YouthWORKS is part of the City of Richmond’s Employment and Training department, which runs several programs to help assist young adults in the community with finding employment. The Richmond’s Capital Improvement Program funds the new building’s renovation as part of the city’s efforts to reduce violence by providing services to at-risk young people.

Councilman Booze said continuing to fund projects of like this one is an important step toward helping more young people in the community succeed.

“This is fantastic. It’s a win-win situation,” Booze said. “It’s a win for jobs, a win for education and a win for a new life for people other than crime.”

Booze said it’s encouraging to see young people involved. “It’s a pleasure to see something positive,” Booze said. “Now the young people have a place to go that’s centrally located and safe.”

The building’s grand opening will be in August. For more information on programs at Richmond YouthWORKS call 510-412-2044.

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