Darell W.Darell W., UPLIFT Academy Class of 2016 Graduate

After getting kicked out of West Side High School in the 12th grade, Darell developed into what he calls a “hangsta.” “I was little bit in the streets, but on my way out,” he says. “I got myself a job, started working security, trying to get my life together.” 

But without a degree, Darell couldn’t visualize a way to move forward. “I felt like I couldn’t go any further unless I stopped and got my diploma.” After visiting various agencies, Newark Public Schools referred him to UPLIFT Academy, 1 of 2 transfer schools in the district and a key YBN partner.

With the credits he’d earned while at West Side, it took Darell only a year to get his high school diploma. In that short time, UPLIFT Academy left an impression. “I liked how [the teachers] interacted with the students. They didn’t just teach us. They didn’t just look at us like [we were] students. They looked at us like young people trying to make a way for themselves.”  He continues, “We didn’t see them just as teachers – we saw them as mentors.” Darell considers UPLIFT’s Principal, Chief Innovation Officer, and Director of Operations among the staff who particularly helped him transform from a ‘hangsta’ to a high school graduate. 

While he had the option to access vocational training during his enrollment, work prevented him from dedicating the time required. Yet, soon after graduating from UPLIFT, Darell found himself jobless. Two days later, UPLIFT’s Principal, Mark Comesañas, presented YBN’s construction training program as an opportunity. At first hesitant, Darell realized he enjoyed it. “I like working with my hands. I didn’t even actually know that,” he explains. Darell now has a core craft credential from the reputable National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Out of a cohort of 12 students, he was also the only one to achieve his GPRO certification. Developed by Urban Green Council, USGBC New York, GPRO is a comprehensive national training and certificate program that teaches the people who build, renovate and maintain buildings the principles of sustainability combined with trade-specific green construction knowledge. Darell recently became a YBN construction intern, which will allow him to continue to develop his skills on the agency’s construction sites full-time.

Darell plans to enroll in college where he will major in business management. Eventually, he’ll launch his own company. He looks forward to emulating his father, who owns six businesses. “I’ve been watching him my whole life…watching him do business,” says Darell. “I want to be jack-of-all trades when it comes to it.”