At-risk youth get a second chance to succeed

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Imagine being 15-years-old, having no family, and being out on the street with everyone telling you that you will never make it. It is the harsh reality for some teens. One program in Portland helps these types of kids prove people wrong.

“I wanted to get through school. I knew that was the one thing you really had to have. I wanted to get through school, but not go to a regular high school,” said Brian Tisdale.

Youth Building Alternatives, or YBA, and provides at-risk students with the education and skills they need to be successful. A group of students graduatred from the program Friday morning, including Tisdale.

Seventeen-year-old Tisdale was living at the Preble Street Teen Center when he heard about the program.

“I had to fend for myself, I did some things I regret definitely,” explained Tisdale.

Each of the YBA graduates has their own story about the obstacles they overcame to get to graduation.

“For them to come in and make us part of their family and be willing to share with us and work with us and grow with us, it is just incredible,” said the Director of YBA Soni Waterman.

The program provides each student with educational training focused on the GED or HiSet exam and vocational training. Students also receive college preparation and assistance finding work upon completion of the program.

“It is definitely a good feeling, you know? I’ve come a long way. I have definitely had a lot of struggles in my life and it is getting better as it goes on,” said Tisdale.

Tisdale was unanimously voted “Student of the Year” by his teachers. His plan is to prepare for college and join the military.