Media Contact: Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
O: 352-291-9559 | M: 352-816-1264
[email protected]


OCALA, Fla. (May 30, 2019) – Phoenix Rising YouthBuild students will trade hardhats for mortar boards and hammers for diplomas next month as they celebrate completion of Marion County’s ninth project.

Graduation takes place June 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Howard Academy Community Center, 306 NW 7th Ave., in Ocala. Dr. Jim Henningsen, president of the College of Central Florida, will provide commencement remarks.

Recruiting is also under way for the next class slated to begin in August.

The graduation caps off the 20-week alternative education program that makes a positive difference in the lives of young adults ages 18-24 while helping revitalize economically challenged areas of the community.

The following graduates will be recognized: Pleasure Gillins, Tyler Henry, Jeomar Martinez, Jacorie McCullough, Maranda Miller, Jowarn Mitchell, Kessa Mueller, James Petkanics, Georna Philippe, Mariah Baez Suitter, Nicolle Torres and Bradley Weatherall.

Through the program, which got its start here in 2011, students receive hands-on and classroom training designed to develop workforce skills that lead to employment or a post-secondary education program. Students may also earn their high school diplomas and industry certifications as well as receive weekly participation payments.

A key component of the program involves construction of homes for deserving families in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Marion County. The program broke new ground by building its first home in Belleview.

To date, 32 homes have been built and 199 students have taken part in Phoenix Rising programs in Marion and Citrus counties. Many of the projects have been funded through US Department of Labor YouthBuild grants obtained by CareerSource CLM.

CareerSource CLM and its youth services provider, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development, also recruit students, provide career coaches to help oversee the program and handle classroom employability training.

The Belleview project is the third of four funded via the current $806,000 YouthBuild grant designed to serve 48 at-risk young adults. The first, completed in June 2018, involved construction of a home in Silver Springs Shores; the second, completed last December, was built in West Ocala. Among the 25 students in the first two cohorts, 92 percent graduated from the program and 100 percent of all participants earned high school diplomas.

Heaven Colon, Eckerd site manager, said that the construction component of the program teaches students about leadership, teamwork, work ethic, discipline and the “importance of giving back to the community by helping hardworking families.”

Colon added that as “important as it is to actually build a home, the program transcends construction.”

“At the end of the day, the program is not necessarily about going into the construction industry, though we’re ecstatic if that is where their interest takes them,” she said. “Significantly, these young adults also have the opportunity to earn a raft of diverse industry credentials. And that, combined with their diplomas and the confidence they gain in this program, is opening doors they thought might always be closed to them.”

Students in the seventh and eighth YouthBuilds have earned 146 credentials including forklift and warehouse certifications, OSHA certification, Florida Safe Staff Food Handling, Home Builders Institute PACT Carpentry certification and the National Retail Federation Customer Service and Sales credential.

Among those earlier graduates, 20 exited with employment, one enlisted in the Marines and two of the employed also enrolled in post-secondary programs.

In addition to CareerSource CLM, Eckerd and Habitat, primary partners include the City of Ocala, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, College of Central Florida (Hampton Center), Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Neighborhood Housing and Development Corporation, Florida State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) and Equal Housing Opportunity, and Silver River Mentoring & Instruction (SRMI).

To be eligible for the program, participants must be United States citizens who are age 18 to 24, in need of a high school diploma or GED and who are willing to work.

Phoenix Rising YouthBuild has become a national model of what communities can build when public/private partners work together. It has earned recognition from the Florida League of Cities and the National League of Cities, Harvard’s School of Business and received Habitat for Humanity International’s highest honor, the Clarence E. Jordan Award for creativity and innovation in building homes and communities.

For more information about the Phoenix Rising YouthBuild or enrolling in the program, call 352-291-9550, ext. 2293 or 800-434-JOBS, ext. 2293.


This program is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, Phoenix Rising, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion and community Partners.

CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is a proud partner of the American Job Center network and member of CareerSource Florida. CareeerSource CLM is an equal opportunity employer/program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request in Spanish and to individuals with disabilities. Phone numbers may be reached using TTY/TDD equipment via Florida Relay at 711. For accommodations, call 800-434-5627, ext. 7878 or e-mail [email protected]. Like CareerSource CLM on Facebook, subscribe on YouTube and/or follow on TwitterGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

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