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Seven Prince George's Youth Complete Construction Program

James Wright | 8/17/2011, 8:31 a.m.

Kevin Prather has always wanted to work with his hands and he knew from his years at Crossland High School in Temple Hills, Md., that learning a trade was the way to do what he wanted and make good money also. So, when Prather, 19, recently found out about the TeamBuilders Academy's Summer Young Adult Construction Career Training Program which is co-sponsored by the Prince George's Community College and the Prince George's Public Schools, he jumped at the chance to participate.

"I was laid-off of my job at an electric company a few months ago," Prather, of Temple Hills, Md., said. "When I received the e-mail about the program, I did not hesitate to apply and I was happy I got in."

Prather joined six other young people and 40 family, friends and supporters on Thu., Aug. 11 at the Westphalia Training Center in Upper Marlboro, Md., for a cookout in their honor for completing the program. TeamBuilders Academy is a product of the community college's accelerated adult training program that focuses mainly on educating future construction industry professionals.

The program was started in April 2009 by Tony Knotts, who was then a member of the Prince George's County Council. Knotts said that a conversation with then D.C. Council member Kwame Brown sparked his desire to start the TeamBuilders Academy.

"I was talking to Brown and he said that we did not have any 'bench strength' when it comes to the construction industry," Knotts said. "The TeamBuilders Academy is designed to meet that need because we have major projects such as Westphalia and the Base Realignment Commission coming into fruition and we need Prince Georgians to work on those projects. This program will raise the skill level to build a new Prince George's County."

In addition to Prather, the students who were honored were Rashard Atkins, Drew Matzo, Karrvin and Keevon Prather, Marcus Rucker and Taylor Walton.

The seven students were referred to the program by faith-based, community or government organizations. They went through screening for substance abuse and personal history as well as their cognitive abilities and work readiness.

They were then interviewed by the TeamBuilders Academy staff, led by Thomisha Duru the program director, for a sense of their interpersonal and communications skills and their interest in the construction industry. The students underwent six weeks of training about the industry and working on projects, Prather said. "I was here with my brothers from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.," he said. "We did a lot of classroom work and did a lot of building."

Prather noted that the chairs, tables and podium at the cookout where constructed by his class.

Since its founding, the TeamBuilders Academy has added tracks of occupational training in fields such as computer and information technology, health and human services, hospitality and tourism, transportation and distribution as well as public safety and security.

One of the highlights of the event was the handing out of awards. Matzo, 17, was awarded as the "Iron Man" award while Karrvin Prather and Walton, 18, were given the "Team Player" and "Leadership" awards, respectively.