Since 1994, YouthBuild programs have welcomed and embraced more than 130,000 young people who were born in poverty, faced incredible obstacles, and left high school without a diploma. About one third made mistakes that caused them to be court involved.
At their YouthBuild programs, they find caring adults and peers who show it is possible to overcome their challenges and unleash their intelligence and positive energy to rebuild their communities and their lives.
YouthBuild students are seekers of opportunity. They are 16- to 24-year-old urban and rural youth residing in low-income communities who, for a number of reasons, are not in school and not employed. Recently in the USA, researchers have called this group “Opportunity Youth” to indicate that they both seek opportunity and would offer enormous opportunity to our nation if we invested in them. According to research there are 6.7 million 16 to 24 year olds in the United States who are neither employed nor in school, of which about 3.5 million were born in poverty. Globally, over 200 million youth are working poor and earning less than $2.00 a day.
YouthBuild students in the USA
- 91% of entering students lack a high school diploma. They left school for a combination of reasons: home environments where violence, abuse and poverty have worn them down; unresponsive and overburdened school and social service systems; family responsibilities that became overwhelming; peer connections that beckoned them to the streets; and the lack of a strong support system of caring adults to provide guidance.
- 63% are men, 37% women.
- 47% are African American, 30% Latino, 22% white, 2% Native American and 3% Asian. Young people of all backgrounds thrive in YouthBuild.
- 23% of students are court involved. YouthBuild provides a path to respect, responsibility, and success in mainstream society.
- 21% are parents. In the United States, nearly four out of 10 young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20. Teen pregnancy is the leading reason that young women leave high school. For young fathers, their motivation to join YouthBuild is often the desire to become a good father.
YouthBuild International Youth Participants
Young people who enroll in international YouthBuild programs are all Not Employed or Engaged in formal Training (“NEET youth”, is the term used in Europe). The majority of youth have not completed the (country-defined) secondary education credential. In half of the country settings where YouthBuild is being implemented, young people come into the programming having pursued livelihoods through informal (economic) sector activities. Most enrollees have little or no previous experience in formal work settings. Many have experienced violence, have been in conflict with the law, or are young parents.