One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: YouthBuild U.S.A., Somerville, MA
Contact(s): Dorothy Stoneman, President: (617) 623-9900
Purpose: To work with unemployed young adults in motivating them to serve in their communities

Background Program Operations Outcomes


Between 1978 and 1984, the Youth Action Program of East Harlem Block Schools operated the YouthBuild Program to inspire young people to work on community-service projects in their neighborhoods. In 1984, the New York City Department of Employment decided to fund two other agencies in the states to operate their own YouthBuild Programs. By 1994, community-based organizations in 14 cities around the country had raised sufficient funds to establish their own YouthBuild programs. YouthBuild USA was created as a national support center providing technical assistance and training to organizations seeking to design and implement YouthBuild programs in their local areas. YouthBuild now has 108 chapters nationwide.

Program Operations

YouthBuild targets low-income African American, Latino, white, Asian and Native American youth. In 1996, more than 75 percent of the program participants had dropped out of school and about 41 percent were on public assistance; nearly half were young parents and a quarter of the men in the program had been involved with the criminal justice system. YouthBuild is designed to run over 12 months and offers job training, education courses, and leadership development opportunities to unemployed and out-of-school young adults age 16-24. Central to the program's operation is that young people construct and rehabilitate affordable housing in their own communities. YouthBuild's academic program is designed to prepare students for the high school equivalency exam, postsecondary technical training or college. Trainees alternate a week of classes with a week of on-site construction training. The program integrates academics with vocational training. Through workshops and weekend retreats, trainees learn decision-making, group facilitation, public speaking and negotiating skills.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Over 4,500 young people complete the program a year, a 64% success rate. About 40 percent of the students in need of educational skills obtained their GED or high school diploma and 14 percent went on to post-secondary education. YouthBuild graduates have found jobs with an average hourly wage of $7.53 an hour. The renovated and constructed buildings on which students work become homes for low-income buyers and affordable housing units for homeless families.

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