Date published: 01/05/2013
Publication: Troy Record
By Andrew Beam
TROY — For some, second chances can be hard to come by, but many of the people participating in the Center on Economic Opportunity’s YouthBuild program are getting theirs and their stories will soon be told in documentary form.
The Sanctuary for Independent Media, located along Sixth Avenue in the city’s North Central neighborhood, offered three different workshop series during the latter part of 2012 to document the efforts of the Troy Central Little League, the effort to get a skate park in the city and the YouthBuild program.
“As we were looking around for three great subjects, we realized YouthBuild will be a great collaboration as an organization to work with us,” said Branda Miller, the arts and education coordinator at the Sanctuary. “They are doing such positive work and it is such a positive program for our youth.”
Thomas Mueller, project manager at CEO YouthBuild, said the same about the Sanctuary, and emphasized the importance of the collaboration between them, the Troy Bike Rescue, Collard City Growers and the Missing Link AME Zion Church.
Many of the YouthBuild program’s participants either have a checkered past or didn’t make it through high school. Mueller said the program not only allows them to learn various trades in construction by assisting with Habitat for Humanity and other building projects, but also prepares them to get their GED.
Allowing YouthBuild participants to share their stories of heading down a wrong path and being able to change direction was something Mueller said could be very beneficial for other struggling youth.
“I think what’s really important is youth get a really bad reputation nowadays and what the youth really need is someone to believe in them,” Mueller said. “They need opportunities to rebuild their lives. So, I think by having this documentary out there, it will show people in the community our youth are doing positive things and they do want to rebuild our community. They are tired of the crime plaguing all the things where they live.”
Mueller also hopes this documentary will make other troubled youth aware that programs such as YouthBuild are available to them. For Mueller, there is no better way of getting the message across than through members of the program who have seen success because of it.
Initially, Steve Figueria, 23, was timid about sharing his story on the documentary since he doesn’t like to talk about his personal issues. The Brooklyn native said he wasn’t enrolled in high school and was never able to finish. Figueria said he started selling drugs to get through. Soon enough, he realized he had to change direction.
Once he realized that the program has brought him success, he felt the documentary was a good chance to help others do the same.
“I’ve overcame a lot of things and I overcame a lot of obstacles and it was a big success for me to be able to tell other people that you can change your life around,” Figueria explained. “It is never too late, no matter how old you are. For me, I felt a part of success that I achieved something and that I could help another individual achieve the same thing.”
According to Andrew Lynn, one of The Sanctuary’s media educators, four hours of footage was shot of the YouthBuild group alone. He hopes to cut it down to a 10-minute Web documentary and post it to both The Sanctuary’s and CEO’s websites. The plan is to release it by the end of the month.
Lynn admitted that he wasn’t sure if they would have enough footage or if YouthBuild participants would be willing to share their stories. What happened certainly surprised him.
“One of the things that stuck in my mind was we went in thinking we were not sure whether one or two people would want to talk and share their heartfelt stories,” Lynn said. “But by the end we felt we had plenty. Some people were coming to us saying, ‘I didn’t have my chance yet.’”