Media Contact: Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Director of Communications
352-291-9559 | 352-873-7939, ext. 1234
[email protected]

OCALA, Fla. (July 25, 2023) – Trading hard hats and hammers for caps and diplomas, students from two Phoenix Rising YouthBuild classes will graduate together on Thursday, Aug. 3 at 11 a.m. at the College of Central Florida’s Webber Center in Ocala. The following day, those interested in building their own future are invited to learn about the program at an Open House from 1-4 p.m. at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place, 1821 NW 21st Ave., in Ocala.

Now in its 12th year, the award-winning initiative helps revitalize economically challenged neighborhoods while making a positive difference in the lives of those ages 18-24 who are willing to work, in need of a high school diploma, and interested in employment and/or postsecondary education or training.

Students receive hands-on training and classroom instruction designed to develop workforce skills that lead to employment. A key feature of the program involves construction of homes for deserving families in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Marion County. Recruiting and supervision of students, who receive weekly participation payments, as well as career counseling and several other aspects of the program are coordinated by CareerSource CLM’s youth services provider, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development.

“YouthBuild is more than just building a home for a deserving family and working towards a high school diploma; it is about building the next generation of our workforce,” said Heaven Colon, Eckerd Youth program manager. “It is a humbling experience watching each YouthBuild participant overcome personal challenges and grow throughout their journey, witnessing that moment when they know how it feels to finish something. To see their sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement.”

The Open House on Friday, Aug. 4 is designed to introduce the YouthBuild program to potential participants and their family members as well as community partners.

Prospective students will be invited to try out for enrollment in the program by participating in mental toughness and team building exercises Aug. 16-23. Student selection will be made Aug. 24-25 with classroom training kicking off Sept. 6 and construction slated to start later that month.

In addition to CareerSource CLM and its youth services provider, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development, as well as Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, primary YouthBuild partners are 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 United Healthcare Community Plan.

Colon noted that a “large part of the success of the last two cohorts was our amazing partnership with United Healthcare, which provided additional support to provide mental health counseling services for our young adults.”

Major funding for the program comes from a grant obtained by CareerSource CLM from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. Current federal funding for YouthBuild is $844,712. The two-year grant, awarded last year and the fourth obtained for the program, covers training for 48 students and construction of four homes.

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

For more information, call 352-291-9550, ext. 1215.


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

CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is a member of CareerSource Florida and a proud partner of the American Job Center network. CareerSource CLM is supported by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and other agencies as part of awards totaling $6.9 million (revised annually). Unless otherwise stipulated, all statements, news releases, requests for proposals, bid solicitations and other applicable documents are fully funded from federal sources. CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is an equal opportunity employer/program.

Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities and in Spanish. All voice telephone numbers listed above may be reached by persons using TTY/TDD equipment via the Florida Relay Service at 711. If you need accommodations, call 800-434-5627, ext. 7878 or email [email protected]. Please make request at least three business days in advance. Stay connected with CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion on FacebookTwitterYouTube,  and LinkedIn

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