Woodwork program empowers city teens

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) A group in Roanoke is empowering teens by teaching them to make things with their hands. Creating a box or a chair, the Making Foundation is changing lives, one project at a time.

The storefront on Patterson Ave in Southwest Roanoke is different. "I remember it as the old Save A Lot building," said Mikeal Williams.

Since 2016 the place is for people to create for the Making Foundation.

The founder Aaron Ray-Dykstra was inspired by his own experience of dropping out of high school and wanted to expose teens to the opportunities in the manufacturing industry.

"This is something I created as an adult that I wish existed for me as a student, "said Ray-Dykstra.

More than 300 students have built boxes and chairs since they started three years ago. Mikeal Williams and Breosha Agnew who attend Noel C Taylor Learning Academy, visit every day.

"When we first started I was like I didn't like it too much, but then we got into it and I like it," said Williams.

"I make things and my grandparents show their friends and they want me to make something and they ask can I buy it, "said Agnew.

Using power tools and saws, their group is working a basketball goal.

"It's really great to take raw materials to turn it into something and give it to someone else. It's something that makes someone else's life better but it's tangible evidence of being good at something and that's something a lot of these students have never experienced before," said Ray-Dykstra.

Time here means more to them than just learning woodworking skills.

"Mistakes are proof that you are trying, "said Williams. "It makes me feel good because I never thought I'd be able to do it," said Agnew.

The foundation looks to help more people, starting classes for adults in the spring and beginning a summer day camp open to kids across the Roanoke Valley.

"At its core, want this to be a place where students are empowered and connect those dots long term on their way to real careers," said Ray-Dykstra.