Four UCC YouthBuild Students Forge Ahead Into Obtaining Career Pathways Upon HSD Graduation

The journey towards obtaining a fulfilling career pathway shines a little brighter for four UCC YouthBuild students after they successfully attained their High School Diploma (HSD) certificates. 

This remarkable achievement for YouthBuild students, Brandon Lee, Isaiah Stevens, Al-Jahid Curry and Nikolas DaSilva, was recognized during a graduation ceremony hosted Feb. 23 at the Clubhouse building on Spruce Street in Newark. Bedecked in their caps and gowns, the students received their diplomas following speeches from program leaders who highlighted the young individuals’ accomplishments.

“This is the first step in a direction for these young people to keep going and to further their goals whether they want to go to college, which we can help them with, or to continue to become self-sufficient and be able to go into the workforce,” UCC YouthBuild Program Director Tasmeya Hall said. “Today’s graduation is just a small piece of all that. From here it is more encouragement to keep them going.” 

One of the graduates, Nikolas, quipped that the commencement was a “long time coming” for him after he said he dropped out of school. Now, the goal for him is to get to college. 

“I’ll need to study some more and, of course, finish the YouthBuild program, but from there we’ll see what else comes my way,” Nikolas said.

Following graduation day, the students will continue with the YouthBuild program for at least another six months to work on their career and technical education training. UCC Senior Director of Youth, Education and Employment Services Jacqueline Henry said students can earn certifications, for example, in the healthcare field or in construction.  


For Henry, graduation day was a cause for celebration yet served as a reminder of the long journey students have ahead of them.  

“The next step is to be in school Monday morning,” she said. “They will now transition to being with us a full seven hours a day so that they can obtain their industry-recognized certifications.” 

Alongside earning industry certifications and technical training, UCC YouthBuild, which works in tandem with the Leaders for Life program as the educational provider, takes a comprehensive approach to its curriculum with a special focus on life skills. UCC’s YouthBuild staff aims to empower students with a thorough, transformative education to help ensure that graduates can meet the demands of the workforce and contribute meaningfully to their communities. 

Henry noted that the program teaches students how to handle obstacles whether they be in the workplace or in daily life. This component of the program encompasses anything from students knowing their elevator pitch, ironing their clothes, or even knowing how to ask for help. To foster a better learning experience for the students, Henry said, she wanted to ensure the program also had a social-emotional facet while creating a space where students felt free to open up and express themselves. 

That attention to students’ life skills and emotional and social well-being was not lost on Nikolas on graduation day. The commencent not only served as a moment for him to celebrate his accomplishments, but he also reflected on what UCC’s YouthBuild program provided him on a personal level. 

“One really big lesson this program taught me is responsibility. You have to be responsible to make the time to come here and learn. It also taught me accountability because where are you without accountability?” 

As the most recent cohort of graduates take their next steps, they do so with a sense of confidence and purpose instilled by UCC’s YouthBuild program. They are equipped not only with the technical skills required for their chosen careers but also with essential life skills such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving.  

These skills, coupled with their determination and resilience, position them as valuable assets to any employer and enable them to make meaningful contributions to their communities.

United Community Corporation

"Moving people from dependency to self-sufficiency"