Habitat Youth Program teaches valuable life skills

Habitat Youth Program teaches valuable life skills
January 30
10:00 2021

By Rachel Barron

At 15, Nigel Knight already knows how to check the fluids and tire pressure of a car. He’s also learning skills like conflict resolution, financial literacy and dining etiquette, thanks to the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) at Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County.

Nigel’s mom, Ikeshia Knight Jordan, said she enrolled him in YEP so that he could learn life skills. “I had to make a lot of mistakes before I learned all these things. I didn’t know about changing the oil in a car until it broke down. This program is giving him a jump-start in life.” 

She was especially happy when Nigel proudly demonstrated what he had learned in the dining etiquette class by setting the table and serving her a meal.

Habitat established YEP in November 2019 to help underserved youth learn life skills beyond what they are taught in school. Thanks to a $50,000 grant from BB&T (now Truist), the program is free for participants. YEP members meet for fun, interactive educational sessions and hear from speakers such as Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough and District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield. They also volunteer at the Second Harvest Food Bank and go on field trips to places such as local college campuses, the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro and the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro.

The program is open to students ages 12 to 17. They come from many different schools, but are all one family when they come to YEP. Nigel said, “It’s fun and you’re learning a lot, too. Everyone is nice there. You don’t have to worry about anyone talking about you behind your back or bullying.”

YEP was created by George Redd IV, Habitat’s chief program officer.  “Some of the youth in the program do not have a safe, stable environment at home,” he said. “We want to show them they matter, are loved, and can achieve greatness. Further, teaching classes on essential skills at an early age gives all of the youth confidence and inspires them to want more out of life. If you can teach a 12 year old the importance of good credit, imagine what they can do with that knowledge. If you can take a group of young Black and brown boys and girls to a college campus and let them see that this place is filled with people that look just like them, imagine the confidence boost they would receive. That is what YEP is all about, empowering our youth.”

Willette Mosby-Reynolds, Habitat’s YEP director, has already planned sessions and volunteer days well into the spring, including a trip to Biltmore Estate in Asheville in late March. The program is actively welcoming new members, she said. Anyone interested can learn more at

Mosby-Reynolds, who has years of experience planning education courses for kids and adults, said the YEP program has been especially rewarding. “I like to say that kids are my passion,” she said. “They are so open, so excited about learning new things and making new friends.”

The warm, welcoming environment amazed Tameika Faison and her son Rodney McLean last year.

“Rodney was going to be in a play and he was really excited about it,” Faison recalled. “We don’t have any family near here, and it was really, really bothering me that they wouldn’t be here to see the play. Ms. Willette, on less than a week’s notice, got a group together from YEP to come! Rodney was SO excited and thankful that they came.” 

Before YEP, Faison said, Rodney was often quiet and reluctant to speak up in a group. She has been thrilled to see him thrive at YEP and gain new confidence. “I’m just so happy that he is engaging, and that he’s being prepared to deal with different situations in life. I am so very appreciative of the program and wish more youth would participate. With no family nearby, I realize how important it is to have a ‘village.’ There is definitely a village at YEP.”

Rodney agrees.  “It’s a good program for all the kids to come together and learn a lot of new stuff about life. For me, it’s about learning to be a man, and how to make good choices.”

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