Program helps dropouts build a better future

MONROE — Their circumstances are different, but they all want to improve their lives.

Monroe-resident Michelle Gullette, 21, was a single mother who’d never held a job in her life. Andrue Ruiz, 19, of Everett had been in trouble with the law and was embroiled in fights.

Charles Griffin, 21, also of Everett, dropped out of high school and was in drug-related trouble.

In October 2011 they all joined YouthBuild Snohomish County, a 10-month construction training program for 18-to-24 year olds to help them earn their GEDs.

YouthBuild provides on-the-job training, with the students helping to build single family homes for low-income families with Housing Hope. They also receive certification and class instruction from Edmonds Community College. The students get their GED through Everett Community College

Learning how to behave in a working environment and how to be organized is helpful in any job, program coordinator Travis Green said.

“These guys need a chance. These students are very intelligent. At the end, everyone is going to be on a winning streak,” Green said.

Griffin recently earned his GED, while Gullette and Ruiz expect to take their last test in the next couple of weeks.

“Getting my GED was one of my happiest memory in years,” Griffin said. “This is my personal miracle. I am back where I was before I dropped out of high school in 2005.”

This national program is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is managed by Workforce Development Council Snohomish County.

This is the three-year-old program’s first offering in Monroe. It was in Stanwood for its first two years. Since the move, enrollment increased to 30 students.

Students are being recruited for the 2013 program. Only low-income dropouts will be considered.

Besides the GEDs, students have also gained confidence and basic work skills they can use for any job.

“I got my CPR certification and my OSHA certification,” Gullette said. “I know I can go out and make something good out of myself. I know I can do what the guys are doing.”

YouthBuild has seen an enrollment increase because Monroe has a bigger population and it is in a more urban setting.

Classes are divided in two groups. Each group spends two days in a classroom and other two days doing construction work. On Wednesdays, the two groups spend the entire school day receiving lessons from Edmonds Community College teachers in Monroe.

Last Thursday, students were helping build several homes on Roma Drive SE in Monroe. Currently there are seven houses in different stages of construction, with the goal to create 14.

Shaun Michael Ehrlich, 21, of Everett was building a frame for a wall. This was his first time doing this all by himself.

“Instead of being at home doing nothing, you are here doing something for yourself,” Ehrlich said.

Some of the other students were reading their textbooks and studying for upcoming exams in the YouthBuild classroom inside the WorkSource office, 17150 W. Main St., just a mile away from the construction site.

Monroe resident Glenn Bray, 21, was one of these students. He said he has a job in carpentry already lined up after he finishes the course in June 15.

“I didn’t even knew how to read a tape measure, and now I can do a bunch of things,” Bray said. “It’s a great program to be in.”

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422;

Learn more

YouthBuild Snohomish County, a 10-month construction training program for people between 18 and 24 that helps them get their GEDs diplomas, is holding orientation sessions at 2 p.m. on May 23, May 31, June 19 and June 21 at WorkSource Monroe office at 17150 W. Main St., Monroe. For more information, visit

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