Kayden’s classmates often made fun of his shyness and his father’s departure from the family. While teachers acknowledged the situation, they didn’t take concrete actions to stop the teasing. Kayden soon became unmotivated to go to school and was referred to the YouthBuild program by a case manager a year ago.
In the beginning, Kayden was still feeling the effects of bullying and didn’t want to attend YouthBuild classes. YouthBuild Director Andrew Jope and YouthBuild Program Manager Prem Linskey recalled, “Kayden came here on a trial basis from Burlington High School, and over time, he’s really become invested in the program. He shows up every day with a good attitude and an eagerness to go to work. It’s so different from when he was barely showing up a year ago. It’s where he wants to be.”
Kayden credited his changes to the staff’s attentive care. He explained, “They are here for you…they want to make sure you succeed. They will listen. When I used to come here, I never used to want to be here. Prem being there for me every day and constantly making me smile, laugh, and make me feel better about myself—it’s just been amazing to have that support.”
Kayden has enjoyed spending time with fellow classmates and working on projects that benefit the community, such as fixing up affordable housing and covering up air leaks in attics. Hands-on learning was particularly important to Kayden, as he had a difficult time learning in classrooms where he was not able to move for long periods of time. Now that Kayden is taking steps to earn his high school diploma, he aspires to study either Sports Management or Culinary Arts in college.
YouthBuild has helped Kayden transform his demeanor—from pessimistic to positive. Prem told him that a positive mindset could change everything. Kayden shared how this advice impacted his mindset—“Prem said this thing, ‘It’s all mental.’ You can completely change your whole day just by thinking differently. Everything can be turned into a positive; even if something that’s really bad that’s happening, you can always find a positive…and now I am able to find the positives in everything, even if it’s bad.”
The staff’s words of wisdom coupled with construction lessons and weatherization projects that Kayden was fond of have helped change his mentality and have given him a brighter outlook for the future. He wants any students who might be struggling in traditional high school to know that there’s always someone to support them and be their ally.