YouthBuild: one stimulus model
The program has turned lives around and builds affordable community housing.
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Today, 226 organizations across the US are using the YouthBuild model, and the federal government has provided some grants since 1993. With the stimulus funds, federal money for the program will total $120 million for this year.Skip to next paragraph
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"The Obama administration understands that it integrates education, employment, housing, crime prevention, and leadership development," says Ms. Stoneman, the longtime youth champion who heads the national YouthBuild USA office that trains affiliates.
Youths spend 50 percent of their time completing a GED or high school diploma and 50 percent developing workplace and life skills through community service projects.
When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began focusing on education, it recognized YouthBuild's track record.
"We think they are a tremendous organization, and we've been partners with them since 2003, first to improve high school graduation rates, and then to ensure young people also earn the college degree they need to succeed," says Marie Groark, a senior program officer at the foundation. In November, the Gates Foundation gave YouthBuild a $6 million grant as part of its effort to encourage youths to go on to attain postsecondary credentials.
Luis Docanto, who dropped out of school in 10th grade, is now working on his GED at YouthBuild Just-A-Start in Cambridge, Mass. He wants to go on to Bunker Hill Community College and eventually into some form of law enforcement. YouthBuild has become "a second home and a second chance," he says, as he and his co-workers frame a closet at an affordable housing site in Cambridge.
A very shy young man when he entered the program, Mr. Docanto has "really opened up and shows strong leadership skills among his peers," says Lisa Bolstad, a carpentry teacher and site supervisor.
The Cambridge program offers a pre-apprenticeship certificate in construction, as well as a new health careers program. About 75 percent of students go on to graduate from the Cambridge program.
"Knowing how to build a house is half the battle. The other half is having youths become convinced they have potential," says John Bengel, YouthBuild Just-A-Start executive director. "The curriculum is built so people have initial successes, which lead to other successes."
The affordable condominiums in Cambridge are being built according to LEED standards for green buildings, including solar panels on the roof. YouthBuild Boston has just completed two green houses and hopes to earn a gold LEED certificate for them.
With support from the Wal-Mart Foundation, "building green" has become a priority for YouthBuild programs, for environmental reasons and to prepare youths for green careers.