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Building affordable homes in Milwaukee while getting your high school diploma

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 19:04:59-04

MILWAUKEE — “I have five kids at home. I’m pregnant now. I just turned 8 months, so six kids.”

Sabrina Suarez, 25, has a big family. What might shock you is that even though she is 8-months pregnant, she loves doing construction work.

“Yea, but I like it. I don’t know," she said with a laugh.

Sabrina Suarez
Sabrina Suarez poses with her children.

It’s one part passion and the other part necessity.

“Walmarts, cashier jobs, that didn’t really satisfy what we needed.”

She likes working with her hands and needed a career track that would pay her more to provide for her family. That's why she chose construction.

She is just at the beginning of her career. Sabrina is learning the ropes with an organization called Youth Build which is run by the Milwaukee Christian Center. It's designed for young people 18 to 24 years old who never got their high school diploma. The Milwaukee Christian Center has been doing this for about 20 years.

While learning valuable trades that can translate to a future job, participants also spend time doing school work to get their high school equivalency degree.

"Painting to flooring to rough and finish carpentry, and if they want to do that after they leave there, that’s fine. That's great, and if not, you know, we give them skills so they can move on and be a productive employee," Paul Smith, the housing director for the Milwaukee Christian Center, said.

A photo of the home that the Milwaukee Christian Center is helping build through its Youth Build program. Address: 1009 S. 17th St, Milwaukee.

The program doesn't just benefit people like Sabrina. The home participants build is specifically for low-income families. Sabrina is currently working on a home at 1009 S. 17th St. in Milwaukee. Construction will be completed around the beginning of July. It will be listed for roughly $148,000.

“Everyone deserves a good home," Smith said.

For Sabrina, learning the job skills was just as important as getting her diploma. She wanted to make sure her kids didn't follow the same path she did.

"She’s always, ‘oh I could just quit school. We don’t really need it.’ And I’m like no you really do need it. She said, ‘You don’t have it.’ Well, now I can say I have it. Now you guys have to finish yours.”

Of the five she calls her children, she didn't give birth to any. She has been raising them with her fiancé for the past eight years. Her sixth child, who is on the way, will be the first child she has given birth to.

"When I was a kid, the choices I made and not following in school really kicked my butt in the long run. It was harder to get a job," she said.

After the roughly 10-month program, Sabrina feels more confident than ever and ready to pursue a tiling or electrician's career to support her growing family.

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