About YouthBuild USA

YouthBuild USA, Inc. operates in the United States as YouthBuild USA and internationally as YouthBuild International.

In the United States, YouthBuild programs give low-income young people who have fallen off the edges of society the opportunity to transform their own lives, get back on track to adult responsibility, and give back to their communities.  

The first YouthBuild program was established in 1978 in East Harlem by Dorothy Stoneman and a team of young people eager to improve their communities. It was replicated in New York City with tax levy funds from 1984 to 1988 . YouthBuild USA, Inc. was established by Stoneman in 1990 to orchestrate its national replication. By 1992 there were 20 local privately funded YouthBuild programs in 11 states. 

In 1992 YouthBuild USA succeeded in working with legislators to get a bill passed that authorized YouthBuild as a federal program under the management of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  In 2006 YouthBuild was transferred from HUD to the US Department of Labor (DOL) by unanimous vote of Congress.  It is currently authorized under the Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (2014).

Since 1992 YouthBuild USA has worked with four successive federal government administrations, many private funders, and hundreds of local sponsoring organizations to build a network in the United States of more than 260 community-based YouthBuild programs sponsored and managed by local non-profit or public entities in urban and rural communities. 

There are currently two ways that a local organization can obtain the right to use the YouthBuild name: 1) they can win a competitive YouthBuild grant from the US Department of Labor (DOL); or 2) they can be licensed by YouthBuild USA as an affiliate that is committed to achieving the program design and performance standards established by the YouthBuild USA Affiliated Network. These standards are consistent with those established within the legislation that authorizes YouthBuild as a federal program in DOL.

Each year about 8,000 low-income young people who have left high school without a diploma enroll full-time in YouthBuild Programs for about 10 months. They spend at least 50% of their time, usually alternate weeks, in caring academic classrooms, and at least 40% in hands-on job training building affordable housing or other community assets. A strong emphasis is placed on creating a safe and caring community of adults and peers committed to each other’s success.

In the course of their full-time enrollment, they:

  • Achieve their high school equivalency credentials or high school diplomas in a caring individualized context 
  • Obtain job skills and earn a stipend, wage, or living allowance  for building affordable, increasingly green housing for homeless and low income people in their communities 
  • Gain industry-recognized certifications in preparation for productive careers (in addition to construction, some train for jobs in healthcare, technology, or  customer service)
  • Solve personal problems with counseling support, addressing urgent needs for housing or child care, record expungement, or other problems
  • Give back and lead through participation in community service and advocating for their communities on the local and national levels.
  • Transition into post-program placements, in college, registered apprenticeships, other postsecondary opportunities, and employment, with support of a transition coordinator and mentors

The work is done “on the ground” in these 252 programs, where YouthBuild staff model leadership for the young people. But a widespread, sustainable movement of this sort requires leadership of its own. That is what YouthBuild USA provides. 

 At YouthBuild USA:

  • We support the broad network of YouthBuild programs across the nation and insure their excellence by providing handbooks and other knowledge resources, staff training, on-site technical assistance, data management systems and feedback, reflection on best practices, peer support, and research on impact.
  • We serve as the competitively selected contractor for the federal DOL YouthBuild program to provide training, TA, and data services to the local YouthBuild programs that are selected for funding by the DOL. 
  • We lead and support the voluntary YouthBuild USA Affiliated Network as the center of gravity of the YouthBuild movement.
  • We advocate at the state and federal levels for resources and public policies that support YouthBuild programs and facilitate youth and community development more broadly.
  • We support innovation in local programs by serving as an intermediary for catalytic private foundation and corporation funds that we sub-grant to local programs to demonstrate innovative program enhancements. When these succeed, we assist in spreading them throughout the network network and collaborate with DOL in integrating them into the federal delivery system.
  • We support the development of YouthBuild graduates as long-term leaders for their communities through a variety of councils, conferences, training, and financial supports.. 
  • We spread the philosophy and methodology of youth leadership development as a central part of working with youth in all contexts, including education, job training, national service, crime prevention, and counseling.
  • We link our network with other like-minded networks for maximum learning and impact.