By Ken Jackson

Staff Writer

Valencia College has a program starting this summer for those who have dropped out of school but are looking for a new, fresh start.

The YouthBuild Construction Program, partnering with YouthBuild USA, a federal program where low-income young people learn construction skills to help build affordable housing and other community assets, and made possible by a Department of Labor grant.

Those who are 18-24, live in Kissimmee, aren’t currently enrolled in any school, need a GED and can qualify for financial aid are eligible to enroll in YouthBuild.

Those who come out the other side of the program will do so with a high school diploma, construction industry credentials, internships and cash incentives, along with inroads into getting meaningful work in the construction industry.

And, the program is free to those who qualify.

Classes for the program will start on July 17, but those enrolling must apply before June 26, when a “boot camp” starts to test the applicants mental and physical abilities. While everyone who applies should get into the boot camp, only 15 finalists will be selected this year.

“Depending on how many people apply, yes, this could be very selective,” YouthBuild Project Director Michelle Sanchez said.

The grant funding allows for 62 students to be funded over the next three years, so Sanchez said the program will be expanded in 2018 and 2019 after working out any issues from the first year.

To qualify, applicants must be 18-24, live in the 34741, 34743 or 34744 ZIP codes, be in need of a high school diploma or GED (but not yet taking classes), be legally authorized to work in the United States, be able to qualify for financial aid and be proficient in English.

“In order to be competitive during the application process for the grant, we narrowed down the serviceable area to those ZIP codes,” Sanchez said.

The GED and construction skills classes will run through December, followed

by three months of internships with local companies like Jr. Davis Construction and Skansa, and graduation.

Every student who completes the program is eligible for a paid internship opportunity to work in the construction field, with the chance of being hired after their internship.