At-risk youth transform homes and themselves through a Youth Build program

Published: Apr. 18, 2019 at 9:30 PM MDT
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Some students at risk in the Magic Valley worked together to remodel a home through a program put on by the Community Council of Idaho.

"This house was so plain and empty before we came in," said Cambria Umbaugh, who also goes by Honey.

What once was "plain and empty" was then redone by a Youth Build group.

"We came in and completely changed it from what it felt like, just the energy of it," she said.

Cambria felt a transformation within herself from the start to the end of the project.

"It felt weird working with a bunch of strangers," she said, referring to when they first started remodeling the home.

Students part of the program spent 10 weeks getting their GEDs and HSEs while also helping out in the community.

"We run a youth program for at risk youth, that have dropped out of high school," explained Andrea Tapia, a Youth Build counselor.

Not only do the youth get some education, they get some hands-on job experience.

"By doing construction and remodeling houses for low-income families that are in our communities," she said.

The students learned how to install flooring, cabinets, painting and more.

"I think of it as basic homeowner skills that later on they can choose the profession they want or good stuff they want to know to be helpful around the house later on," Tapia explained.

She said she's seen a change with the students in the 10-week program.

"I get to help build themselves up, and I get to help them understand that they can be valuable members of the community and that they can do things to help our community," she said.

The homes they remodel are rented through the El Milagro complex, but are owned by the Community Council.

"I think its very satisfying for them to first be kind of overwhelmed and intimidated by it at first. But, as we show them how to do these things and they realize how it easy it is, a lot of them will just take the lead with something I give them to do and just go with it," she said.

Cambria said she just got her HSE just two weeks ago.

"I have dreams of becoming an artist," she continued. "Youtubing or living in a van or mobile home and traveling."

She thought that being part of this program would be like high school, but it wasn't.

"I learned that not everybody is who you'd expect to be," she said.

Cambria explained that high school "wasn't for her."

Learning how to remodel a house with a group of other kids who may share the same experiences, she said they grew close.

"It was cool being with my family right here. This is my second family," she said.

Tapia said fixing up the homes gives the youth "a sense of community."

"Definitely working on this house has given them some self-esteem as far as you think of a drop-out, it kind of has a negative (connotation) to it," she continued. "Like, 'Oh, you’re a drop out,' but this is like, 'Yeah, I dropped out... Yeah, I did this program, I got my GED, not only that, but I'm turning these houses into homes for people in our community.'"

The group held an open house Thursday to show off the home they remodeled and for those in the community interested in renting it out.