Niagara Gazette —
A group of students sat staring intently, their eyes oscillating between the papers in front of them and their teacher, Dennis Luzak, as he spoke on the finer points of pouring concrete bollards on a cold January morning.
Luzak was not talking to high school students. He was in the basement of a small white chapel on 22nd Street talking to a group of men and women enrolled in an adult learning program that provides job training in the construction trades to unemployed and underemployed city residents.
The 400-hour training course - run by Orleans Niagara BOCES - is part of the mission of the Isaiah 61 Project, a faith-based, not-for-profit organization that is working to take city owned houses and rehabilitate them into homes for low-income residents with help from skilled-laborers-in-training.
Once all the necessary permits are secured, the students will begin working at the organization's first project house on Whitney Avenue - just a few blocks from the church - this week.
For the students - many of whom said that they weren't dong anything constructive before enrolling in the program - the classes represent an opportunity to make a living. But, even more importantly, the classes represent an opportunity to find purpose, they said.
Jason Seaberry, one of the eight students enrolled in the course, said one of the things that he wants to earn through the class is a job title.
Seaberry now feels as though he is working towards a career and that gives him a sense of pride. Before enrolling in the program he was unemployed and wasted a lot of his time, he said.
"I was just sitting around doing nothing," Seaberry said.
Darren Christian said that he had been on unemployment before starting the course. He found it difficult to get jobs with no real experience to list on his resume.