Building a better future with Western Sierra YouthBuild |

Building a better future with Western Sierra YouthBuild

Western Sierra YouthBuild (WSYB) is a California public charter school providing academic and free vocational training to young people age 16-25 years old in need of a high school diploma. Not every student learns the same way or at the same pace and sometimes students lose their way. WSYB is here to make sure that every young man and woman has a chance to learn skills that will carry them through their entire lives. Students participate in academics, vocational training, life skills and career development classes, as well as leadership development and community service activities.

"I love this program because it's the most holistic approach to educating young people," said WSYB Director Anita Bagwell. "We use a lot of interactive, kinesthetic, hands-on learning which is very successful for all kinds of students, particularly with students that have ADD and ADHD. With this in mind, we can teach them to do a wide variety of things." There are a number of reasons that students enter into the program, but most commonly, these students do not thrive in the traditional classroom.

In the one hour intake interview that each student completes upon registration, Bagwell finds out what made traditional school difficult for each individual. The staff strives to ensure the student's success by designing their program and schedule to be a good fit for their learning style and needs. Ultimately, WSYB's main goal is that every person who completes the program leaves with not only their high school diploma, but also the skills needed for lifelong sustainable employment. This is accomplished through practical skills training and also through incentive programs that reward those whose behavior is consistent with traits of a good employee. "It takes more than a high school diploma to make it out there," says Bagwell, who encourages the young women and men to earn as many certifications as they can in order to help them move out ahead competitively for jobs. "We believe that someday, each of our students will own a home. Until then, they can begin learning what it takes to keep up a property and a home."

Students receive a free pair of steel-toed work boots if for 30 days they maintain all four Youthbuild expectations:
1. Come every day
2. Come on time
3. Participate 100%
4. Get a clean drug test

In return for their efforts, students are given a free education, skills that will help them to be employed upon completion of the program, job placement assistance, and more. "Most of our students have had little success in attending anything daily or on time, and some have no desire to attempt to deliver a clean drug test. Come anyway. This is a life preparation program. I always tell the students that the training they receive here can help them to work and earn money on the way to their next step, be that college or their dream job," Bagwell said. "One of our goals is to not have a mass exodus out of Nevada County, but to unleash the intelligence and positive energy of our youth while rebuilding their community and reimagining their lives."

WSYB has a growing list of local employers that want to hire their students due to the school's high standards and the training they offer.
The program offers the Home Builders Institute Pre Apprentice Construction Training (carpentry, electrical, plumbing, brick masonry, landscape, painting, facilities maintenance, and weatherization). Western Sierra YouthBuild also offers OSHA 10, Forklift, First Aid/CPR/AED, ServeSafe, and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications. These pre-apprentice level certifications help students become competitive on a resume, and are the first steps to becoming licensed and bonded in the trade of their choice. Because the school is open year round, enrollment into the school can take place immediately and students can begin moving forward quickly.

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Bagwell also believes in the transformative power of community involvement, another component of the YouthBuild model. and so makes sure that Each student dedicates four hours of school time each month to volunteering in the community. For instance, in the construction program Currently, the students work with Habitat for Humanity in Nevada, Sutter, and Yuba Counties to help the organizations build homes for low income families. They are also assisting in the restoration project being done at the Julia Morgan-designed Historic North Star House, and have built four tiny houses since the program began two years ago. "We are showing our students how to have fun in a clean and positive way. This is a safe space where you can be you," Bagwell said. "We are building a positive, professional community here that shows everyone involved that it's cool to give and powerful to serve."
Every student who completes the program gains the training, skills, and confidence necessary to start a new life with a steady income and great self respect. And isn't that what we are all searching for?

One of 52 John Muir Charter School sites in California, WSYB has been operating in Nevada County since Sept. 2014, and has been a great success for the students who have taken part in the program. In YouthBuild programs, young people ages 16 to 25 are able to attend high school diploma classes and construction or other vocational training programs while building affordable housing in their home communities. YouthBuild emphasizes leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive community of adults and youth committed to each other's success. The YouthBuild model works on a 50/40/10 model- 50% of the program time is spent in high school academic classes, 40% in construction or other vocational training programs, and 10% in life skills and leadership training.

To learn more about this amazing program, visit

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