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In the Spotlight

In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16–24 work toward their GED or3_new-5 high school diploma while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people. Strong emphasis is placed on leadership development and community service.

All YouthBuild students are poor and many have had experience with foster care, juvenile justice, welfare, and homelessness. Participants spend 6 to 24 months in the full-time program, dividing their time between the construction site and the YouthBuild alternative school. Community- and faith-based nonprofit organizations sponsor most programs, although some are sponsored by public agencies. Each YouthBuild program raises private and public funds to support itself. Primary support comes from the U.S. Department of Labor through a dedicated federal line item.

Because a comprehensive approach is called for, the YouthBuild program has gradually and inevitably become a number of things at once:

An 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 to students.

A community service program, in which young people build housing for homeless and other low-income people, providing a valuable and visible commodity for their hard-pressed communities.

A job training and pre-apprenticeship program, in which young people get close supervision and training in construction skills full-time on alternate weeks from qualified instructors.

A 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 life-long commitment needed to be effective and ethical community leaders.

A 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 pursuing achievable goals that will establish a productive life.

A 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.

A 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, prevent crime, create leadership for the future, and generally take responsibility for their neighborhoods.