Youth volunteer group, Project Build, ready for exciting second year

Esli Israel, a Project Build leader, stands in the foreground at Project Build's most recent volunteer day at the Coventry Cleanup.

For years, I had wanted to volunteer. For both myself and for those around me, I wanted to do something meaningful, and have a positive effect on the community. But each and every time I called an organization to see if I could help, I was told the same thing. “You can’t volunteer, you’re under 18. Unless you have adult supervision, you’re too young.” I got frustrated and discouraged, feeling that I was too young to make a difference.

Years passed. Finally, as a high school senior one year ago, I came up with a simple but powerful idea: recruit a few teachers to act as adult supervisors and create a youth volunteer group. I got some of my friends excited, enlisted the help of Cleveland Heights High School teacher Chris Sutton, and went to work. Project Build was born.

Within only months, Project Build became the largest and most active club at Cleveland Heights High School. Since its inception one year ago, the group has organized 23 volunteer days for community-service projects ranging from building houses to repairing playgrounds, planting community gardens, constructing greenhouses, and more. Hands-on construction work is our main focus, and volunteers are sure to pick up a few construction skills on the job. More than 150 Heights High students have participated in our events, in addition to many adult volunteers and volunteers from other schools. And those numbers are always growing.

On Nov. 14, by a unanimous decision from our leadership team, we elected our second-ever president, Grace Goodluck. She exemplifies the passion, vision, dedication and leadership needed to continue Project Build’s mission. She is a senior at Cleveland Heights High School, and plans to attend Cleveland State University where she will study nonprofit management and urban studies.

“In high school, students tend to feel like they don’t matter, and that nothing they do can ever change anything," said Goodluck. "I want to help students realize that they can make a change, through working together to positively impact the community.”

Project Build’s next volunteer day is at Community Greenhouse Partners on Dec. 2, where we will be helping a Heights High graduate build greenhouses to support the local food movement. Other projects are still being scheduled, but one in particular is getting a lot of attention. According to Mr. Sutton, "Our leadership team is planning a disaster-relief trip, and with the recent events on the East Coast our members are eager to help. I am so proud of them and the movement Ariel set in motion.”

While Project Build is only in its second year, the excitement level is high. We have dedicated people who are working hard to make our cause succeed. Project Build is always looking for new organizations to partner with and new projects to take on. If you have an idea, want to volunteer, or wish to support us financially, please let us know. You can follow our progress and learn how to help at

Ariel Travis

Ariel Travis is the founder and first president of Project Build. He graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 2012, and is working and traveling this year. He is considering attending college in Cleveland and expanding Project Build into a nonprofit organization. Contact him at

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 3:40 PM, 11.29.2012