YouthBuild USA: Finalist's Statement
Founded in 1990, YouthBuild USA is a national nonprofit organization that works to unleash the positive energy of low-income young people to rebuild their communities and their lives. We support an expanding nationwide network of more than 200 local YouthBuild programs. In this role, YouthBuild USA orchestrates advocacy for public funding, guidance, and quality assurance in program implementation, leadership opportunities for youth and staff, research to understand best practices, and grants and loans to YouthBuild affiliates. YouthBuild USA leads the national YouthBuild movement and contributes to the broader youth and community development fields in order to diminish poverty in the United States and internationally.
In YouthBuild programs, unemployed and undereducated young people ages 16 to 24 work toward their GED or high school diploma while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people. Emphasis is placed on leadership development, community service, and the creation of a strong minicommunity of adults and youth committed to each other's success. Since 1994, more than 54,000 young people have built more than 14,000 units of affordable housing in 44 states; Washington, DC; Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
YouthBuild USA seeks to join with others to help build a movement toward a more just society in which respect, love, responsibility, and cooperation are dominant unifying values, and sufficient opportunities are available for all people in all communities to fulfill their own potential and contribute to the well-being of others.
In September 2003, researchers at Brandeis University and Temple University completed Life After YouthBuild, a study on YouthBuild graduates conducted in collaboration with YouthBuild USA. The study was designed to find out what YouthBuild graduates are doing, how they are doing, and how they evaluate their YouthBuild experience.
The results of the study were extremely positive:
- 65% of the YouthBuild graduates surveyed thought they would live longer by an average of 32 years--from 40 to 72.
- 75% were currently working at an average wage of $10 per hour, going to school, or training for jobs.
- 76% were receiving none of three government supports (food stamps, welfare, or unemployment benefits).
- 80% exhibited none of three negative behaviors (sold marijuana or hard drugs, been convicted of a felony, or spent time in prison).
- 85% were involved in at least one community-oriented activity.
- 91% gave positive evaluations of their overall YouthBuild experience, with 60% rating it "excellent."
The full study is available on the YouthBuild USA Web site.
YouthBuild USA's most pressing goal and fervent desire is to open the doors to the thousands of interested youth, sustaining and expanding the number of YouthBuild programs to reach more young people in more communities. We also aim to strengthen the quality of our programs to increase the number of successful graduates and to ensure the long-term success of these alumni by establishing a formal network of support and resources.
Strategies for achieving these goals include increasing the $60 million federal appropriation that funds YouthBuild programs, raising aggregate program outcomes, and engaging 1,000 successful graduates in community leadership activities.
YouthBuild USA is committed to bringing respect, love, opportunity, and empowerment to low-income young adults in our country and around the world, so that they may become educated, employed, and valued members of society.
Our longer-range vision is to join with others over the next century to effectively diminish or eliminate the poverty and injustice affecting billions of people worldwide.