Ceremony held for 'green graduates' in SF

December 21, 2009 7:22:23 PM PST
In this down economy, a lot of college grads are struggling to find jobs. However, that may not be the case for the young people who received their diplomas on Monday. They have finished a training program designed to help them turn their lives around and to compete in a growing industry.

It's not your typical graduation ceremony. No caps and gowns, but for 20 young people the ceremony marks a milestone. Most come from tough neighborhoods in San Francisco and have led troubled lives.

"I got tired of shooting heroin, smoking crack and waking up in the gutter," said Aaron Lee, a graduate of the program.

The certificate Lee and the others received, puts them on a new path. For the past 14 weeks, they've received hands on training in life skills and work skills from Asian Neighborhood Design.

That non profit was created more than 30 years ago. These days the focus is on the emerging field of green construction, meaning solar and more.

"Weatherization is just beginning to break big. It's been big in the industry but with some of President Obama's initiatives, there's funding coming down, so we want to make sure that's part of it," said Steve Suzuki from A.N.D.

The students built a mini house using the latest techniques. The recession has slowed work with traditional construction, but these grads are expected to land jobs paying at least $16 an hour.

Program officials predict 50 percent of the graduates will get jobs in the next two weeks; the other 50 percent within a month.

Every single graduate from the last class is working, including 19-year-old Mohamed Ibrahim, who is a solar installer with the Luminalt Company.

"Very bright kid, very smart, works really well, works really hard," says Noel Cotter from Luminalt.

"It's one of the best careers. Everything is going green," said Ibrahim.

Justin Taylor, 18, is now seeing green. He was in juvenile hall before enrolling in the program, and now his family is celebrating.

"I just love to see him go in the right direction, the right direction that's all," said Lillie Taylor, Justin's grandmother.

This is a big step forward.


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