The Verde Community Project is helping “at-risk” young people develop job skills and participate in meaningful work that improves life for others in the Santa Fe community.
Read their stories below to see how they’re training for jobs in the culinary field, greenhouse operations, wildland fire fighting, and more.
When Sean turned up at ShelterNow, the emergency winter shelter run by YouthWorks, on January 16—a date he vividly remembers—he was homeless, unshaven, and had zero dollars in the bank. “All I had in the world was the dirty clothes on my back.”
While staying at ShelterNow over the winter, Sean was able to shower daily and get fresh clothes. Sean remembers how much this boosted his confidence and motivated him.
Over the next months, Sean spent his days at YouthWorks drafting a resume, applying for jobs, and joining the YouthBuild team, where he developed basic skills in construction. He also found stable housing and earned his National Construction Certification.
“YouthWorks helped me put money in my pocket, and showed me how to be a good worker, pay my bills, live comfortably, and trust in myself.”
Sean was eager to join the wildland firefighting team and is one of the first young people to benefit from Verde’s youth employment training program.
“I love that it’s physically demanding. When you’re physical, it’s good for your overall being. And I love the people I work with.”
Sean’s growing confidence and maturity are palpable. It is clear to see his dedication to his work, and to supporting the whole YouthWorks community. And he recognizes his development too.
“I’m doing better at this moment than I have at any other time in my life. If I hadn’t found YouthWorks, I don’t have the slightest clue where I’d be right now. I don’t know how else to say it—YouthWorks saved my life.”
Growing up, Xavior and his four younger sisters bounced around a lot, in and out of numerous homes. As he struggled to care for his sisters, he was in and out of school. “I was there when I could be.”
At age 15, when he got his girlfriend pregnant, Xavior ran away from both school and his family. “I was looking for any outlet, any escape. Whatever came along, I took it.”
During this challenging time, Xavior began to realize that he needed to make some important changes in his life if he was going to become the man and father he hoped to be.
Then one day Xavior heard about YouthWorks.
“I heard about this place where I could get my GED and work, which meant I could buy diapers for my daughter and clothes for the two of us. I wanted to be a man.”
During his time at YouthWorks, Xavior earned his GED and his National Construction certification, while working on Habitat for Humanity building sites. He also worked on his sobriety and on becoming a great father to his one-year-old daughter Elizabeth.
Reflecting on what he’s learned most through being at YouthWorks, Xavior says, “I’ve always had a good head on my shoulders. I always knew right from wrong. But I didn’t know how to apply that to everyday situations.”
“At YouthWorks, they taught me a sense of responsibility, gave me a reason to thrive and to push every day. YouthWorks gave me a reason to wake up—metaphorically and literally.”
Now at 17, Xavior, is part of the first Verde wildland firefighting team with the Wildland Fire Network. Three days a week, he’s out in the woods of greater Santa Fe, doing brushfire clearing, erosion control, and cutting down trees.
“To me, happiness is the key of life. I never knew that being a wildland firefighter could bring me so much happiness. I don’t want to give up, because I want to keep getting better.”
Among his peers, Xavior is a caring and inspirational friend and leader. He supports the youth who come through doors at YouthWorks, sharing what he has learned, and making YouthWorks feel like home for so many others.
“Before YouthWorks, I never really had a home, a place that’s warm and caring and forgiving, not hateful. Now, when I’m at YouthWorks, I feel I have a home.”