"Being here with my peers, it drives me. We all look forward to seeing each other and working together to get the job done. I wake up every morning wanting to come here because I enjoy what we do.”

Phantasha was a mother working full-time without her high school diploma before she joined the YouthBuild program in 2017. “I wasn’t really thinking too much about school, but I knew I wanted to finish. I was just all over the place… I had my baby really young, so I really needed to get my schooling.” Phantasha was introduced to YouthBuild Lake County through her cousin, who was attending the program himself. She saw the potential opportunities the YouthBuild program could give her and she could not pass it up. “I learned that they offered a high school diploma, so I gave it a shot and went through Mental Toughness. I told people I was applying, but nobody really believed me, but I didn’t care; I was applying.” 

Phantasha committed to completing her education for more than just her. “The only person I had in mind was my sister. We were supposed to come here together, but she had passed. So, I was hesitant to be here, because I wanted to do it with someone. Instead, we were spiritually doing it together. She rode with me every day to school. Everywhere I go.”  

Phantasha was eager to earn her high school diploma and brush off her construction skills from when she was a kid. She had spent some time in the trade working with her uncles. “I did enjoy the [construction elements] because I got to practice things that I used to do as a kid with my uncles. It was interesting to see how things worked in this type of environment.  Outside of construction, the most important thing Phantasha learned at YBLC was how to rely on others. “When you have people who are willing to work with you, not take advantage of you, that’s important. I was not afraid to ask questions. I was working with a lot of different people. I was taught by people who make sure I’m being understood. I learned how to be more open and acceptable. I worked as a team.” 

After graduating from YBLC and completing her Penn Foster and on-site training, Phantasha went to college. While this was beneficial, she wanted to continue to expand her knowledge of construction and became a YBLC Pre-Apprentice trainee. “The Pre-Apprentice program is very different from the YouthBuild program. With the Pre-Apprentice program, I’m receiving and retaining my skills. I’m able to focus on construction and put my skills to use.”  

Phantasha also spoke about her experience as a woman in the field. “Being a woman in construction, people underestimate you a lot. It’s sort of like being pregnant, where they coddle you, like don’t do that, or be careful with that. But you just got to show them, ‘look guys, I pushed a whole human out, I think I got this.’” To Phantasha’s surprise, she recently received an award from Rita Mayfield that acknowledged hard work and professional achievement. “It was unexpected, but it was nice to see that, when you think nobody is really paying attention to you, someone overseeing something notices you. It’s nice to know they see me working hard. You really can do anything you put your mind to.”  

After completing the Pre-Apprentice program, Phantasia plans to gain experience in a number of building trades and expand her knowledge in all forms of construction. Phantasha feels like YBLC, and the Pre-Apprentice program have given her the ability to grow, and a major aspect of that is who is surrounding her. “I love them my peers here. It’s the best group I’ve ever had. If I could have had this type of energy in high school, and throughout my life, I don’t even know. I enjoy it here; I enjoy the networking I can do here. Here, I’m helped to look at things in a more diverse light.”  

The advice she gives to new recruits just starting is to not worry, and to believe in themselves and that they have the capacity to succeed in the program. “Being here with my peers, it drives me. We all look forward to seeing each other and working together to get the job done. I wake up every morning wanting to come here because I enjoy what we do.” Being at YBLC gives her a sense of pride to see the work she’s done for her community, whether it was her time in the YouthBuild program, or during her time now in the Pre-apprentice program. It’s a full-circle moment.