The world’s young people must play a central role in leading efforts to diminish poverty. Could the legacy of this generation of young people be to end extreme poverty on the planet? We believe this is possible. But it will only be achievable if there are inspiring and accessible channels for youth leadership along with an opportunity network built by government, private sector, NGO, and global development institutions contributing their expertise and resources.
Tim Cross, President
One of YouthBuild's core underlying convictions, confirmed over the past 36 years, is that young people are capable of playing a leadership role and if encouraged to do so will bring enormous energy, creativity, and imagination to the work, as well as ideas that are well informed by the reality they face. YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild International work to generate ethical and responsible young leaders dedicated to changing the conditions of poverty through committed civic engagement globally. We provide technical assistance and training for local programs to engage students and graduates in developing leadership skills and becoming local community leaders. YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild International build and sustain pathways into national leadership for students and graduates through various youth councils and other opportunities.
Pathways into Leadership: A Study of YouthBuild Graduates, was conducted by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and released in 2012. The study revealed that more than one third of the participants in YouthBuild alumni leadership programs have become educators or youth workers; many hold public office or are church officials. Others have gone on to college, often utilizing AmeriCorps education awards to earn their degrees. Most overcame great obstacles and have transformed their identities while embracing a profound ethic of service and community engagement. They expressed a deep desire to look beyond themselves and to help other people.
The YouthBuild 1000 Leaders Network is a national group of YouthBuild graduates who are committed to coming together to change their local communities and impact national policy. They are the graduates who “make things go right for their life, their family, their program, and their community.” Through the National Alumni Council (NAC), the Young Leaders Council (YLC), the VOICES council focused on post-secondary success YouthBuild graduates are called upon to lead in their local communities, provide input into YouthBuild program quality and policies, and contribute to national forums related to the issues of low-income youth and communities.
The YouthBuild Speakers Bureau provides inspiring YouthBuild graduates to speak at national and local events.
YouthBuild USA has convened a group of national non-profits to sponsor the National Council of Young Leaders – Opportunity Youth United. This Council has produced a platform of Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. YouthBuild USA hosts and staffs this council to produce maximum influence and visibility for the voice of low-income young people. In recent years, the term “opportunity youth” has been used in the United States to describe young people who are unemployed and out of school, but who are seeking an opportunity to reconnect and whose talents offer enormous opportunity to society if we would invest in them.
YouthBuild International aims to build comparable international councils, building on the work of locally-based YouthBuild leadership councils as part of the many efforts that will be needed to engage the leadership energy of the 357 million opportunity youth, who are not in school or training and unemployed.
YouthBuild USA recognizes that graduates have ongoing financial needs for college and launching their careers: e.g. buying tools for their first union job, or acquiring a car to get to their first job in a rural area. Sometimes they also face unexpected health or other family crises.
To support these needs, YouthBuild USA funds the YouthBuild Asset Trust that provides small gifts for graduates to overcome obstacles or seize opportunities. In addition, the Helene D. Stoneman Scholarship and Civic Engagement Program provides funds for college scholarships. Approximately 40 scholarships of $2,000 are given out through a competitive process each year for graduates working for Associates’, Bachelors’ and Master’s degrees.
YouthBuild USA has granted over $800,000 in small grants, up to $2,000 each, to outstanding YouthBuild graduate leaders since 2004. The administrator of these grants assists each recipient in creating a budget and financial plan for the future.