'Build Up ' program equips high school students with skills to revitalize Ensley community

'Build Up ' program equips high school students with skills to revitalize Ensley community
(Source: Jamiese Price/WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - On 14th Street and Avenue E in Ensley, there's a home makeover, and students from Jackson-Olin High School are the architects.

It's a part of Build UP for Urban Prosperity's pilot program, where students 14 to 19 years are learning how to build a home and how to be homeowners.

"Essentially they are learning to rebuild this thing from the ground up," said Build Up's founder Mark Martin. "They're knocking out walls, replacing walls, adding new plumbing, you name it. They will have a hands on experience bringing this home back to life and hopefully bringing some hope to the community along the way," he continued.

Martin said they want to teach children skills they can use that can help them become homeowners, landlords, or launch a career in the construction industry.

"These are high demand jobs that pay good wages and in the construction industry. Honestly it's hurting to find enough skilled talent who are willing to work these jobs but also have the skill to also work them effectively."

Students meet on Tuesday and Thursday after school. This Tuesday was a special day, because students received their first paycheck. They receive a monthly stipend for the hours they work, but the value isn't just in the money, it's about the financial skills students are learning along the way.

"One day they will learn more about investments and making your money work for you but it's also about this idea that working hard in life can pay off," said Victoria Jackson, whose two sons participate in the program.

It appears students are already starting to take notice.

Tytiania Dukes, said she's learning leadership skillds and the importance of financial literacy. "It's good to save your money, just in case you really need something," said Dukes.

Jaylon Cephos said the program is setting him up for a positive future. "The learning here is going to teach us more about life and move us into the future."

The plan is to recreate this model for its long-term program that's expected to start this fall.

Students would come in following the eighth grade and be with the program for six years earning a high school diploma and an associate degree. They will spend about half of their time on average in a work-based learning environment where they are rebuilding homes in this community that they can one day own.

If you're interested in the program you can email Martin at mark@buildup.work or visit their webpage at https://www.buildup.work/.

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