Q&A with Student Latara Vasquez

Why did you come to YouthBuild?Latara Vasquez, YouthBuild Philadelphia student

I had trouble staying in high school because I had to take care of my young cousins while my aunt was at work.  I was also living in an abusive place, mentally and physically. I missed so many days that I had no choice to stay (in school). I was referred to YouthBuild by my uncle, who told me it was a very good school. The first time I came here, I knew I liked it. They don’t turn down a hand when a person needs help – they look for ways to lend a hand.

How is YouthBuild different and why has that helped you?

There is more structure and discipline here. But it’s a different kind of discipline. People show you they care. They push you and you know you only have one year to make it. The learning is also very different. Everything is hands-on. It’s not just reading textbooks. We learn about things that matter to us, like how the government works in social studies, and how to be healthy in science class. I never understood math before I was in YouthBuild. Mr. Brian goes step-by-step with me, and I get it because of him.  If I didn’t have a teacher like him, I probably would have dropped out again. It’s hard to stay in school when you don’t understand something like math. All the staff value our education like it’s theirs, like they own it.

How do you think you have changed since the beginning of the year?

I’ve become very outspoken. Before I was really shy and never raised my hand in class, even if I had an answer.  Here, they celebrate our intelligence. I used to be afraid of being picked on for knowing the right answer, but students are different here.  We want to get the answers right.    My language has changed too.  I used to speak with a lot of slang, but I’m learning to speak properly. I listen to Mr. Ameen (Dean of Students) in assemblies, and it shows me how to stand up in front of a crowd and speak properly.

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned at YouthBuild?

In construction training, I’ve learned a lot about patience and cooperation because we have to work together on the worksite.  That’s helped me in the classroom and at home, because I’m more patient there now, too. I also learned about problem solving – like when the tools don’t work or when people have disagreements. I’ve learned about how important is to communicate if we want to get a lot done together. Then in science class, we learned about genes and how diseases can be hereditary. It was really interesting, and it also helped me learn about how I’m at risk for diabetes.

What do you hope to do after you graduate in August?

I want to go straight to college, hopefully at Lincoln University. I want to keep studying science, and one day I want to become a veterinarian or pediatrician.

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