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Phoenix Rising YouthBuild Raises Hope While Raising Walls

Phoenix Rising YouthBuild has been raising the hopes and expectations of at-risk young adults since 2011. The popular alternative education program is getting ready to do so again, along with raising the walls on its seventh home in Marion County. The wall raising ceremony will take place Friday, March 16 at 9 a.m. at 8075 Juniper Road in Silver Springs Shores. It is the first in Marion County in three years– it is also the first Phoenix Rising home constructed outside West Ocala.

The program helps revitalize economically challenged areas of Marion County while making a positive difference in the lives of young adults. The current class of 13 ranges in age from 18 to 23, and many of the students hail from Ocala themselves. Selected only after making it through mental toughness screening, the group has completed team-challenge course and has been in the classroom since January. They have been working toward high school diplomas and industry certifications, as well as developing workforce skills that lead to employment.

A key feature of the program involves construction of Habitat for Humanity homes for deserving families.

“We can’t say enough good things about these young people,” says Brian Conard, Eckerd Connects’ area manager. “They have already bonded as a team and are showing an incredible amount of determination and resilience. They are ready to do what it takes to make a difference in their own lives and to help others.”

Conard said that anyone interested in the program – whether as a future participant, program partner or well-wisher – is encouraged to attend the wall raising.

Funding for the initiative comes from an $806,000 grant obtained by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion from the US Department of Labor. The grant is slated to serve 49 participants and help build four Habitat homes through the end of 2019.

Spearheaded in 2010 by then Ocala Police Chief Sam Williams and the Ocala Police Department. Phoenix Rising partners include Habitat for Humanity of Marion County, the City of Ocala, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Board of County Commissioners, Neighborhood Housing and Development Corporation, Florida State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP), Equal Housing Opportunity, Silver River Mentoring & Instruction, College of Central Florida and CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion and its youth services provider, Eckerd Connects Workforce Development.

Phoenix Rising YouthBuild has become a national model of what communities can build when public/private partners work together. It has earned recognition from the Florida League of Cities, National League of Cities, Harvard’s School of Business, and last spring received Habitat for Humanity International’s highest honor, the Clarence E. Jordan Award for creativity and innovation in building homes and communities.