When Blair found YouthBuild Long Island, he was struggling to find a place for himself. At the age of 25, he had been volunteering with local organizations, trying to give back to his hometown of Uniondale, but wanted to do more. “I didn’t really know where I wanted to go in life,” he remembers. “Everything I was doing wasn’t totally fulfilling, I wanted to reach out and help people… that was my passion.”
When his father told him about YouthBuild, he recognized the rare opportunity that had been presented to him – the chance to change his life and be in a position to help others. It was the perfect fit.
Prior to joining YouthBuild, Blair had earned his high school diploma but he needed the training and direction to begin a new career path. “The atmosphere in YouthBuild was very encouraging, the offered programs were varied and interesting, and everyone around me was also trying to better themselves,” Blair said. “It felt like one big family, and I gravitated toward that. The opportunities seemed infinite!”
After learning about the employment connections now available to him upon graduation from YouthBuild, Blair decided his next step would be joining Opportunities Long Island (OLI). There, he would be exposed to the numerous careers available in labor unions, train for a short time in each of them, and then be offered direct entry into a union apprenticeship at the end. “When I first heard about OLI, I thought there was no way that it could be true,” he recalls. “How could you get into a union in such a short amount of time? When I was accepted into the program, I toured different unions, figured out the one I liked, and then was chosen to become an apprentice. I realized that dreams really could come true and how huge this opportunity was.” He chose electrical, and is now a member of IBEW Local 25, working as a five-year traffic signal technician apprentice.
After securing his job, Blair was chosen to be part of YouthBuild’s Switching Gears program, funded by Island Outreach Foundation. The program provides YouthBuild graduates with a car at no-cost, and helps them learn how to care and maintain it, while balancing their budget. This car helps Blair get to and from work and the classes he takes as part of the apprenticeship program.
“YouthBuild is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Blair explains. “I wish that everyone who is struggling to find their place knew about it. It really does change lives – it truly changed mine.”