In local YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income Americans and participating in leadership development activities in their communities.
Today, there are 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands engaging approximately 10,000 young adults per year. Because a comprehensive approach is called for, the YouthBuild program has gradually and inevitably become a number of things at once:
Alternative school, in which young people attend a YouthBuild school full-time on alternate weeks, studying for their GEDs or high school diplomas. Classes are small, allowing one-on-one attention for students.
Job training and pre-apprenticeship programming, in which young people get close supervision and training in construction skills full-time on alternate weeks from qualified instructors.
Community service program, in which young people build housing for homeless and other low-income Americans, providing a valuable and visible commodity for their hard-pressed communities.
Leadership development and civic engagement program, in which young people share in the governance of their own program through an elected policy committee and participate actively in community affairs, learning the values and the lifelong commitment needed to be effective and ethical community leaders.
Youth development program, in which young people participate in personal counseling, peer support groups, and life planning processes that assist them in healing from past hurts, overcoming negative habits and attitudes, and achieving goals that will establish a productive life.
Long-term mini-community, in which young people make new friends committed to a positive lifestyle, pursue cultural and recreational activities together, and can continue to participate for years through the YouthBuild alumni association.
Community development program, in which community-based organizations obtain the resources to tackle several key community issues at once, strengthening their capacity to build and manage housing for their residents, educate and inspire their youth, create leadership for the future, and generally take responsibility for their neighborhoods.
Since 1994, more than 100,000 YouthBuild students have produced 20,000 units of affordable, increasingly green housing in rural and urban communities across the United States.
Liz, 25 years old, is a graduate of YouthBuild Providence and is currently a student at the Community College of Rhode Island. She left high school to support her two children and found herself working what she described as "dead-end" jobs. Liz soon realized that while her jobs were helping her provide for her family at the time, they were going to have little to no positive impact on her long-term financial goals. Determined to take control of her life, Liz refocused on education and enrolled in YouthBuild Providence's GED program, where she not only excelled as a student, but as a leader. Liz became the first female class President in YouthBuild Providence's 14 year history, was nominated to YouthBuild USA's national graduate leadership group on postsecondary access and success, and has played an integral role in leading her peers and advising her program to greater success. Upon completing her degree at CCRI, Liz plans on continuing her education toward becoming a nurse.