Tag Archive for: youthbuild

Students from left to right Misael Bruno Zachary Saphangthong Jasmine Touch Siobhan Sheehan YouthBuild Program Manager and Anna Jabar Omoyeni Culinary Art Instructor. Photo by Soben Pin
Students from left to right Misael Bruno Zachary Saphangthong Jasmine Touch Siobhan Sheehan YouthBuild Program Manager and Anna Jabar Omoyeni Culinary Art Instructor. Photo by Soben Pin

Cooking Up Success at Youthbuild

By Soben Pin   |   June 22, 2021    KHMER POST

“They’re hungry all the time. It was amazing when we started to serve breakfast, kids started to show up, then they wanted to do their math homework and wanted to work,” said Siobhan Sheehan, YouthBuild Program Manager of Community Teamwork, Inc.

Students from left to right: Misael Bruno, Zachary Saphangthong, Jasmine Touch, Siobhan Sheehan, YouthBuild Program Manager, and Anna Jabar-Omoyeni, Culinary Art Instructor. Photo by Soben Pin.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor since 2018, providing troubled youths an alternative path to job skills, while completing their GED equivalent certificate called “HISET.” It is considered a vocational training program, specifically targeting young people ages 16-24 who dropped out from high school, or are struggling to complete their traditional high school diploma, and in many cases also ran into trouble with the law.

Siobhan Sheehan, Youthbuild Program Manager of Community Teamwork, Inc.

“Lowell High School is a very tough place to be” said Siobhan. “It is very hard to be among 4,000 other kids, you get shuffled in these numbers and you easily get lost. When kids have trouble at home, single parents who owes back rents, it puts pressure on these young people, they are hungry and worry about if they’ll become homeless. They have no one to turn to. We’re grateful for our parent organization, CTI — Community Teamwork Inc which has temporary shelter assistance if needed and rental assistance. We are able to help some of our kids get through it by coordinating between units and help their families” added Siobhan.

While at YouthBuild, a vocational training program which runs for one year with each cohort of about 20-25 young adults, they learn carpentry and culinary skills. Today, I visited the first state-of-the art kitchen that was recently finished. It is funded by Cummings grants that allowed the program to extend into serving the students lunch. “It makes a real impact on them and you can see it every day” said Anna Jabar-Omoyeni, Culinary Art Instructor. “It’s one thing to come here to learn, it’s another when you break bread together, it creates the type of bond that gives them a sense of family.” Anna who owned the famous La Boniche, a French cuisine in downtown Lowell on Merrimack Street that operated for 27 years. In 2014, she closed the restaurant. “I was blessed to do what I did for a long time but when you get to that age, (50), you know you couldn’t do it too much longer,” so Anna worked as a catering chef for two years before coming to CTI in 2018. “Working with these young people, it feels like this is what my lifetime work was meant to be, passing on my knowledge to the next generation. It’s fun and rewarding to see their transformation on a daily basis” said Anna.

Anna Jabar-Omoyeni, Culinary Art Instructor.

With Anna, they learn how to debone a chicken, how to peel the onions in a professional way, aging the food, safety in food handling and sanitization. Every day they cook a different meal based on the menu chosen for that day. As part of the program, they also do community service by cooking for homeless shelters and charities.

Every week on Monday morning, they would pick up fresh produce for the week from the Merrimack Valley Food Bank. On the day I visited, a Thursday at noon, food was prepared for St. Paul Charities. They made pasta, individually wrap 75 hot meals and deliver to Elliott Church at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

“The kids learn about the value of being a part of the community,” said Siobhan. “They went on the wrong path because they don’t feel the attachment to the community. This is where the carpentry program became very successful — attaching them to the community by helping build low-income family homes for Habitats for Humanity, and building garden beds for the community. “They feel proud and take ownership of what they have done for their neighborhood. They tell their friends and families that ‘I did that’” said Siobhan.

Today I met with Misael Bruno, 19, who has completed the program and now interning at Tremont Pizza in downtown Lowell. “It wasn’t that hard” he said. “They just show me how they do their sauce and the way they make pizza dough,” Anna glanced him with a smile and said “it’s not hard, huh”. Misael added with a confidence, “I think I’ll be likely to get hired after the internship.”

Misael Bruno, 19.

“When kids graduate from the program, they earn a ServSafe Manager certificate (OSHA 10) that allows them to sufficiently manage a kitchen, so it gives them an edge. The first student interned at Tremont Pizza, first started as a dishwasher, but when they found out he had this certificate, he was promoted to the kitchen right away” said Siobhan. “We’re thankful for this grant that allows us to pay the students a stipend to work with their potential employer, where they will learn the work ethics and the scopes of their working environment before getting the real job.”

The internship is from 4-6 weeks, 18 hours per week. Students also receive a small stipend of $240 every two weeks for participating in the one year training program. “We train them to have ‘mental toughness’, there are timesheet which they have to clock in and out, coming to work on time or no pay for no show, they have to show that they want it for themselves too, then we see if we’re a good match” added Siobhan. “I had them wear an overall during the first year because they didn’t dress properly for the workplace. We train them for a job in the real world.” As part of the program, they also do math and reading as part of their academic work and have to pass an exam to earn their HISET certificate.

One of the students, Jasmine Touch, is interning at Andiamo Restaurant & Bakery in Andover because she likes to bake. She worked at four Dunkin Donuts stores before and intends to use her training to further her culinary interest.

The 3rd student, Zachary Saphangthong, who is making pasta sauce during my visit, was named Junior Chief because he is good with his cooking. “We also know he is smart, but he intentionally failed the test several times so he can stay on the program. His story made me cry” said Siobhan.

Zackary Saphangthong, 19.

He appeared in black jeans, worn low on his bottom, a cap turned to the side, and tattoos on his arms. Siobhan gave him a signal, he pulled up his pants and turn his cap, and put his mask on before entering the kitchen. A young handsome man indeed when the cap was turned to the front. He was open to tell me his story of why and how he found his path at YouthBuild.

“I ran into trouble with the law when I was 13. I got arrested for assault and battery and trespassing. I was under house arrest from 13-15”. At 15, Zackary was on the run, bouncing from house to house, selling illegal guns, he got caught and had to choose between going to jail or do community service. His choice was to do community service. After a few months at YouthBuild, he told Siobhan that he wanted a better life and wanted out of the gang life. That’s where his new journey started. Zackary is now 19 and is a Junior Chief working alongside with Anna. With help from the program, he got his driver license and saved enough money to buy his own car. He plans to attend Middlesex Community College in the fall to pursue an engineering major.

“Most kids here travel by foot. Most jobs require you to have a driver license and a car. It is nearly $1000 to help a student get their driver license which many kids can’t afford. It’s the poverty, when you don’t have that extra money it’s very hard to get a jump start. We are able to help 12 youths get their driver licenses, a few have jobs in Boston, others in other cities” said Siobhan.

The kitchen can hold up to six students at a time. Currently Anna teaches 12 students. They break into two groups and alternate daily. Six students per group. One day they do academics, the other they work in the kitchen. Beside making hot meals for local food pantries, they also have an opportunity to work alongside with Anna to provide state-of-art cooking and catering to many local events and fundraisers. It is the social enterprise part of the Culinary Art Program here at YouthBuild that is distinctive like no others. Anna catered 78 events in one year alone with her students prior to Covid-19. The largest party they served had 500 guests. “Next week, they will cater the Lowell House Open House cocktail party in which they get to dress up and serve in style” said Anna with excitement.


The late commodore in the place he loved on the Merrimack River in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July
The late commodore in the place he loved on the Merrimack River in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July

Merrimack River Mariner “crosses the bar”

“Crossing the bar” is a common term in boating that refers to the death of a mariner

Armand ‘Butch’ Milot led Lowell Motor Boat Club

The late commodore in the place he loved, on the Merrimack River, in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July 10, 2018.


PUBLISHED: April 7, 2021 at 6:14 a.m. | UPDATED: April 7, 2021 at 6:15 a.m.

LOWELL – “Crossing the bar” is a common term in boating that refers to the death of a mariner.

Last month Armand “Butch” Milot “crossed the bar” at 71 years old, but his bright spirit continues to moor itself inside the Lowell Motor Boat Club.

Milot was the longest serving commodore in the 146-year-old club’s history, serving at its helm for 27 years, overseeing finances, maintaining the boathouse and recruiting members to the popular club whose ocean is a wonderful stretch of the Merrimack River upstream from the Pawtucket Dam all the way into Southern New Hampshire.

In his wake and at his wake, a community grieves but remains grateful to have known the man who touched so many lives.

“He was a great leader,” said long-time member John Marchand. “He was not afraid to get his hands dirty; grab a shovel in the winter or cut the grass. When other members see him doing maintenance, they would chip in. Everything is done in-house and Butch was the one to delegate. And no one questioned him; out of respect for the man not so much the title.”

The flag at the Lowell Motor Boat Club recently flew at half-mast to honor the passing of the club’s longtime leader, Armand “Butch” Milot. Milot’s friend, John Marchand, left, and the club’s new commodore, John Manning, admire the flagpole that Milot installed.

In October 2020, Armand “Butch” Milot with YouthBuild member Derek Monroig.

Armand (Butch) Milot receiving his well-deserved Retired Commodore’s Flag on 30 June 2020 after serving as Commodore of the Lowell Motor Boat Club for 27 years. Butch was the longest serving Commodore in the club’s 146 year history.

The late commodore in the place he loved, on the Merrimack River, in front of the Lowell Motor Boat Club on July 10, 2018.

Also speaking reverently was incumbent commodore John Manning, of Westford, who replaced Milot a year ago.

“When Butch died (March 8, 2021) we not only lost an incredibly effective commodore, we lost our friend.” Manning proudly shows guests at the LMBC the changes, upgrades and additions that Butch made to the old building.

A sunroom that overlooks the river toward the spires of Lowell General Hospital is named in his honor. An upstairs deck hosts cookouts, a coffee spot on the front lawn hides in the shadow of an adjacent flagpole.

All of these are part of Milot’s legacy. His efforts as commodore include the construction and reconfiguration of docks and mooring points.

“He was the first to offer the Lowell Police Department free dock space at the club,” said Manning.

As the river has gained in popularity among recreational boaters and personal watercraft, that space has been key for local public safety personnel. River One is the Lowell Police Department vessel that still rests at the ready at LMBC. The Lowell Fire Department also has access to emergency launches.

“The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary holds annual ‘safe boating’ classes for the public. This is another way that Butch gave of himself,” Manning said.

The Lowell Motor Boat Club was founded in 1875 and incorporated in 1937. The current boathouse at 487 Pawtucket St. was constructed in 1937, after the Great Flood of 1936 destroyed the original building.

The club is entirely volunteer-based, meaning members enlist to help with upkeep such as mowing the lawn and pulling the pier from the water at the end of the season.

But his impact extends far beyond the single acre parcel along the southern bank of the Merrimack on Pawtucket Street.

At CTI’s YouthBuild, Milot was known as Armand.

“We didn’t know who ‘Butch’ was,” said Siobahn Sheehan, program manager of YouthBuild. “I didn’t even know he was the commodore of the club.”

He kept the many personal and professional roles separate from each other but treating each with fervor, enthusiasm and the focus to perform it successfully. His lifelong vocation as a contractor led him to YouthBuild, where he served as crew leader and teacher for more than three years.

“He was a staple here as construction supervisor,” said Sheehan. “He was great with the kids,” she said of his work with the group of at-risk youth under his tutelage. “He taught them carpentry and trained them how to get certified. Vocational school atmosphere, great role model beyond the trades, professionalism and accountability. There is a huge gap in the soul of our student body.”

Aside from the many homes that Milot and his students built, they also boast the construction of two horse barns at Andover’s Ironstone Farm, where DeeDee O’Brien formerly served as

executive director. “He supervised the whole project, the volunteers and the kids from YouthBuild. Everybody worked together,” she said.


Merrimack River mariner “crosses the bar” – Lowell Sun

Scott Shurtleff


Baker-Polito Administration Awards $14.6 Million in Skills Grants to Educational Institutions Across the Commonwealth ~ Including $182,572 to YouthBuild Lowell at Community Teamwork Inc.

GLOUCESTER — Community Teamwork’s YouthBuild of Greater Lowell Program received a Skills Capital Grant in the amount of $182,572. This will allow YouthBuild’s Culinary Arts vocational program to purchase a catering van and expand the program by 50 percent and improve the quality of its program for at-risk youth who participate.

A successful Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant requires strong partnership with both area employers and the workforce development system.  YouthBuild Lowell was strongly supported in its’ application for this grant by two of its Employer partners, Aramark, which operates kitchens and food services for UMass Lowell, Tewksbury Hospital, and the Lowell Public Schools; and Stones Hospitality Group, which operates Cobblestones and Moonstones restaurants.  Additionally the MassHire Greater Lowell Workforce Development Board and the MassHire Greater Lowell Career Center supported the application to continue to assist YouthBuild Lowell to expand and increase the quality of its youth occupational skills training program.

YouthBuild’s Program Manager, Siobhan Sheehan said, “YouthBuild Lowell is very appreciative of this grant award which supports our efforts to expand our programming, and helps us grow our social enterprise efforts through catering, in addition to our culinary occupational skills training program.  We will serve more at-risk youth in a state of the art vocational kitchen with this equipment grant.”

The program is a 10-month vocational training program which offers education, training, work experience, and life skills training that maximize the likelihood that participants will be employed in the culinary industry. Students earn HiSet, OSHA 10, Allergen Awareness, the nationally recognized Hospitality/Culinary NRAEF Restaurant Ready credential, and Serv Safe Manager’s certification.

YouthBuild is one of the 54 educational institutions that Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced Tuesday as recipients of the Skills Capital Grants which totaled $14.6 million. The Skill Grants are used to update equipment and expand student enrollment in programs that provide career education. Also in attendance at the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI) were Education Secretary James Peyser, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.

The competitive grants are awarded to educational institutions that exhibit partnerships with local businesses, as well as support curriculum and credentials with industry demand to maximize hiring opportunities in each region of the state.

About YouthBuild of Greater Lowell

 Community Teamwork’s YouthBuild program offers a path forward to independence and self-sufficiency to these at-risk youth by providing career pathways and alternative education for those who do not succeed in traditional educational settings. They can chose between two tracks: Construction and Culinary Arts. All of YouthBuild students are low-income and in need of a High School Equivalency (HiSet) and comprehensive support to address their barriers to employment. Mentoring and strong adult role models within the program are critical.

About the Skills Capital Grants awarded by Governor Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet

The Skills Capital Grants are awarded by Governor Baker’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which was created in 2015 to bring together the Secretariats of Education, Labor and Workforce Development, and Housing and Economic Development to align education, economic development and workforce policies in order to strategize around how to meet employers’ demand for skilled workers in every region of the Commonwealth.

Program and Event Contact:

Siobhan Sheehan, Program Director, YouthBuild



Media Contact:

Julia Ripa, Communications and Marketing Manager




PICTURE CREDIT: Credit for the picture should be attributed to Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office.


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yb grant ged

Grant boosts job training and GED program for struggling youths

YouthBuild, a Lowell-based organization will be able to continue and expand its work helping troubled young people continue their education and prepare for jobs, as a result of new federal funding.

By John Laidler Globe Correspondent,Updated January 17, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

Students enrolled in Community Teamwork’s YouthBuild program work in the kitchen.

LOWELL – Community Teamwork was awarded $1.44 million by the US Department of Labor to support its YouthBuild initiative, the largest of three 40-month grants announced in Massachusetts to organizations offering the federal program.

YouthBuild provides job training and education toward a GED for students who have either dropped out of high school or were at risk of doing so. Those completing the nine months of training and classes also receive job placement and retention help.

“We are extremely excited,” said Carl Howell, division director for housing and homeless services for Community Teamwork, an anti-poverty agency that has served nearly 400 students in its YouthBuild program since taking it over from another organization 12 years ago.

Howell said it is notable that the new grant came just as Community Teamwork’s previous YouthBuild grant — in 2017 — was expiring. He said agencies typically have to wait a year or more for new funding.

“It shows what we are doing is appreciated and well-regarded in the federal eyes,” he said.

The fresh funding will enable his agency to enroll a new cohort of students in February, and to increase the number of participants from 64 to 80.

Community Teamwork, which assists about 50,000 people annually with services ranging from emergency fuel assistance to early education, runs its YouthBuild program out of its Youth Opportunities Center in downtown Lowell.

Participating students can choose between hospitality/culinary arts and construction for their job training, which is offered on alternating weeks with their GED classroom instruction.

A spacious workshop at the Lowell building provides room for construction students to frame walls and other training work, and for the culinary/hospitality students to learn cooking and other skills.

Students earn a $125-per-week stipend to help cover their living expenses and are not charged fees. But each week they take part in community service projects, from repairing fences to assisting with Habitat for Humanity home building projects. (Students learning construction also work at other times on Habitat projects as part of their training).

About 85 percent of students in the nine month-period achieve the goals of completing their job training — which earns them certificates to work their fields — and earning or moving toward receiving their GEDs. After they graduate, students remain in the program up to two more years for help in finding and keeping a job, and other services as needed.

“I think it’s the non-traditional setting that really helps,” Howell said of the program’s good results, noting that the more intimate setting discourages the kind of disruptive behavior students might exhibit in a large high school. He said their hands-on work, the services available to them, and the fact that the program is voluntary are also factors.

Rafael Cotto, 21, had been expelled from two area high schools when he enrolled in the program in 2018. Through his job training and the help of YouthBuild staff, he was hired as a cook at a local restaurant, and later as a school bus driver. That led to his current employment as a construction trainer in the YouthBuild program.

Calling it his “dream job,” Cotto said, “I love working with kids” and using the example of his own experience to motivate them. “I strive for excellence every day and to show them it is possible to do what they want to do.” Meanwhile Cotto has earned his GED and now attends classes nights at Middlesex Community College.

Cotto credits YouthBuild for the strides he has made.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” he said of the program.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.




 Congresswoman Lori Trahan Announces $1.4 Million Federal Grant for Lowell Community Teamwork Inc.’s YouthBuild program

 LOWELL, MA Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) announced a $1,440,000 federal grant for Lowell Community Teamwork Inc.’s YouthBuild program.

The grant will support programs that help young people learn occupational skills in construction, health care, information technology, and hospitality. YouthBuild participants assist with building or rehabilitating affordable housing in their communities while receiving educational support and training as they complete their high school degrees or equivalent.

“Since 1999, Community Teamwork has been helping at-risk youth train for careers that will provide them with a lifetime of success. Through their volunteer work in the community, these students receive quality apprenticeships and learn entrepreneurship skills that will empower them to support themselves and their families,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “This funding represents a solid investment in our youth and their families, our workforce, and our regional economy. As a Member of Congress, I will continue to fight for important investments like this.”

“We are thrilled to have again received the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild Grant and are thankful to Congresswoman Trahan’s continued support of this important program,” Community Teamwork’s CEO Karen Frederick said. “This funding will allow us to continue YouthBuild’s mission, which provides vital tools and skills to help our young people become successful in our community, by helping them reach their education and career goals.  We have seen firsthand how YouthBuild helps to transform and advance young people’s lives and are grateful to be able to continue this work.”

Community Teamwork Inc. currently provides training in construction and culinary arts to 34 young people but will be able to expand thanks to this funding. The program has a waitlist of about 40 youth.

More information about the federal YouthBuild program is available at DOL’s website here.


December 19, 2019
Contact: Mark McDevitt, (610) 463-4827

Congresswoman Lori Trahan Announces $1.4 Million Federal Grant for Lowell Community Teamwork Inc.’s YouthBuild program



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low z ctigrant

Kronos grant bolsters CTI YouthBuild

LOWELL — Kronos employees have awarded Community Teamwork Inc. with a $20,060 GiveInspired grant that will help YouthBuild students learn how to manage their money and address transportation barriers to employment — two key pieces in attaining independence and self-sufficiency.

Thanks to the grant, YouthBuild participants will receive financial literacy training and one-on-one coaching sessions on budgeting, saving and credit from FDIC-certified financial specialists. It will also help fund a pilot program to help up to eight students obtain their driver’s licenses by assisting them with the costs associated with driver education, permits and Registry of Motor Vehicles fees.

At the grant presentation, held Aug. 23 at the Lowell Farmers Market at Lucy Larcom Park, YouthBuild Program Director Siobhan Sheehan thanked the Kronos representatives for understanding “that to get to a job, you need to drive there, to be successful, you need financial literacy.”

“Ladies, I can’t thank you enough,” Sheehan said to the members of the Kronos GiveInspired Committee. “This means so much to us. You are breaking barriers and you’re helping us end poverty by starting right here, right now, with this.”

Representatives of Community Teamwork Inc., Kronos, CTI YouthBuild participants and city officials pose with the check for the $20,060 Kronos GiveInspired grant presented to CTI to support its YouthBuild program at the Lowell Farmers Market at Lucy Larcom Park on Aug. 23. (Courtesy photo)

Kronos GiveInspired Chairwoman Sarah Sheehy said CTI representatives had to apply for the grant, do a presentation and be approved by a scorecard ranking and vote.

“The passion of this organization just shone through and was contagious, and they really fit in with our charter of empowering and inspiring the next generation workforce,” Sheehy said. “So great fit, great partnership. We look forward to continuing to partner with you.”

YouthBuild serves low-income young adults ages 16-24 who dropped out of school, live in Lowell and surrounding towns and are ready for a second chance for educational and vocational training. The program provides participants with High School Equivalency Test preparation, vocational training in construction or culinary trades, one-on-one case management, leadership development, life-skills training and career and academic coaching.

Carl Howell, CTI division director of housing and homeless services, said the grant will give YouthBuild students the skills to be fiscally responsible once employed and help them develop economic plans for their future. He said the assistance with getting driver’s licenses is also key.

“Getting a job means nothing if you are unable to get to work. With driver’s education costs increasing, our students don’t have the upfront money it takes to enroll into a driver’s ed class,” Howell said. “These funds from Kronos help bridge that gap and allow our students to expand their search and opportunities to become gainfully employed.”