A Message from Dorothy Stoneman

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Dorothy Stoneman

Dear Friends of YouthBuild: 

I am writing to share with you the fact that I have decided to stop being the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YouthBuild USA, Inc. in January 2017. 

Inspired constantly by the energy of young people seeking a chance to rebuild their lives and communities, I have been lucky and happy to spend the last 38 years, in partnership with so many wonderful people, building this organization and guiding this movement through the many stages of its development. I have been blessed to witness inspiring results, including affordable houses built, students transcending endless obstacles with grace and pride, directors and staff producing marvelous local programs, political allies fighting for YouthBuild through thick and thin, and passionate young leaders moved to change the world.

I am enormously proud that YouthBuild has grown from a trusting and creative collaboration between teens and adults in East Harlem in 1978, to a worldwide movement and network of over 260 locally controlled programs in the United States and 81 programs in 21 other countries. Together with thousands of colleagues -- directors and staff of local programs, government partners and elected officials, funders and donors, allies in advocacy, staff at YouthBuild USA, and dedicated graduates -- we have been able to give over 165,000 young adults and their families the chance to rebuild their communities and their lives. Many graduates have earned AmeriCorps education awards for college through their service. Many have become change agents and role models, inspiring their peers to follow in their footsteps.

I have made this decision now for the following reasons:

  • YouthBuild is no longer dependent on me. It is an institution, positioned to continue its mission with momentum. The authorized federal YouthBuild program is well run at the US Department of Labor; and YouthBuild USA, Inc., the support center for all YouthBuild programs, has a skilled senior management team of ten who have over 120 years of collective experience with YouthBuild and a staff of 100 dedicated to bringing quality and innovation to local YouthBuild programs. Our reputation, results, and relationships are all strong.
  • Recently I have been especially enjoying the work of creating a new national movement of Opportunity Youth United led by YouthBuild graduates in partnership with grads of many other good programs. Many of our young leaders are now in their twenties, thirties, and even forties, and their time has come to seize the moment and build the broader movement to end poverty and injustice. I will continue to support this aspect of YouthBuild’s work after I stop being CEO.
  • While my health is excellent, and my energy and commitment to the cause remain high, I don’t know how long that will last. I will be 75 years old in 2017! I do now get tired after 12 hours of work a day, when I used to happily work 16. So something is changing and it would be fun to have some years when I do not constantly have lists of hundreds of things that I am obligated to do within a tight time frame.
  • John Bell and I are happily married. We have been together for 46 years. If we give ourselves some free time and some free mind space, there may be some new things we want to do together before it is too late! Our daughter just had her first child, so we want to enjoy our new grandson with a sense of leisure. And we have always loved hiking in the mountains, in touch with the profound inspiration of natural beauty.

Of course, I love YouthBuild. I am deeply connected to many YouthBuild graduates. I will always feel enormous joy and pride in all aspects of what thousands of us have built together. I am deeply grateful to all our foundation and corporate funders and individual donors and to the government officials and staff with whom we have partnered for decades.

I am full of respect and admiration for the directors of local YouthBuild programs. The passion and skill that they and their staff give to their communities and students are the root of our success. Sometimes people talk about a leader passing the torch to one successor; but the truth is that the torch has been passed over the years to literally hundreds of local directors, and they have already lit up their communities with the hope and opportunity that YouthBuild embodies. We all believe in the power of love coupled with opportunity. That force will always work its reliable magic.

There are a few individuals without whom this would not have been possible who deserve to be named whenever we are thinking legacy. Senator John Kerry was the original sponsor of the legislation that authorized YouthBuild as a federal program and he championed YouthBuild in Congress for twenty years, ensuring that annual government funding would be appropriated for local YouthBuild programs. Bill White, CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, provided catalytic initial funding in 1988, continuous annual funding ever since, and the creation of an endowment for YouthBuild USA. Leroy Looper, our founding board chair, mentored me for decades after we met in the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. He guided me with wisdom through the complex territory of race and class.

Beyond key individuals, there has always been a philanthropic community of foundation and corporate funders who have given us the resources for innovation, for constant quality assurance, and for creative problem-solving.

Now our board of directors is launching its search for my successor, looking both internally and externally with the help of the Phillips Oppenheim search firm. We started succession planning years ago. Then in 2011 the board said they were satisfied that we had capable bench strength and adequate stability, so I should just give them enough warning and all would be well. I have done that, and I am eager to see who emerges to take YouthBuild forward in the next stage.

Thank you so much for being part of our broader community, watching and supporting our endless work of unleashing the positive energy and intelligence of low-income young people, working toward a society with justice and opportunity, freedom and responsibility, love and community, for all. 

We will let you know when the new CEO is chosen! 

Warm regards and many thanks always,


Dorothy Stoneman
Founder and CEO
YouthBuild USA, Inc.