Ruben reflects on finding YouthBuild and how it has affected where he is now.
I am Ruben Castro. I’m 31 years old and after years of struggle, I’m thankful to have stability in my life. Honestly, it’s hard for me to describe how much my life has changed since I found YouthBuild 15 years ago. When I tell people my story, I get emotional because I’m filled with so much gratitude for my YouthBuild program, classmates, and teachers. And the thing is, my story isn’t out of the ordinary. There are millions of young people who are stressed with complicated home environments, feeling peer pressure to drink and use drugs, all while struggling in school. I wished for a place like YouthBuild, but back then I didn’t know that my dream was already a reality for some.
I grew up in the rural town of Luling, TX. By the time I was 16, I was in a drug rehab program and on probation. As part of my path to recovery, one of my counselors suggested I apply to Casa Verde YouthBuild in Austin, TX. I wanted to reclaim my future and transform my life, and if it meant driving 45 miles from Luling to Austin and back again every day, then that’s what I would do.
At Casa Verde, I worked toward earning my high school diploma while learning green construction skills. On my first day, I didn’t even know how to read the marks on a tape measure. When I graduated, I was OSHA-certified and building energy-efficient homes for local low-income families, very much like my own. More than anything, YouthBuild teachers and students supported each other and held one another accountable for our actions. My life went from dysfunctional to functional.
I’m so grateful for where I am and how I got here, and I want to be a positive voice for the millions of young people who deserve the same opportunity. YouthBuild helped me change my life for the better.