Joel Kissel, left, lead furniture fabricator with Upcycle Inc., a project of the Institute for Workforce Innovation, watches as, left to right, Jeremy Whitehead, 19, Johnathan Davis, 20, Greg Sercey, 23, and Ronaldo Rawls, 18, use scrapped wood pallets to build furniture with Project YouthBuild Americorps to be sold at Wednesdays’ Farmer Markets. Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Upcycle is part of the Institute for Workforce Innovation’s Project YouthBuild program for 16- to 24-year-olds who come from low-income households and have not earned a high school diploma or GED.
“(Upcycle) really accomplishes the goals of our organization and also helps the environment,” said Jonathan Leslie, the institute’s executive director and CEO.
Under the direction of furniture fabricator Joel Kissel and other staff, the young people turn discarded pallets made of wood such as pine and oak into home décor inside the Boys & Girls Club Mentor Center on Southeast 17th Drive.
Proceeds from the sale of Upcycle items go toward the institute’s programs and allow the organization to not have to rely on state and federal grants, Leslie said.
Some of the Project YouthBuild students and alumni participate in Upcycle, which teaches them the principles of entrepreneurship and manufacturing, according to the institute.