YouthBuild provides unemployed young Americans ages 16 to 24 with opportunities to pursue their education, serve their communities, and learn job skills. Since Dorothy Stoneman, founder and CEO of YouthBuild USA, started the first YouthBuild program in East Harlem in 1978, the movement has spread across the country, with tens of thousands of YouthBuild students building affordable housing and becoming leaders in their communities.
In a Google Hangout On Air with NationSwell, Stoneman discusses her reason for starting YouthBuild, while Jamiel Alexander, YouthBuild alumni council president, and Filomena Chavez from the Just-A-Start YouthBuild program in Cambridge, Mass. talks about the way service has shaped their lives.
“Your neighbors see you building in the same neighborhood where they used to see you standing idle. Now you’ve got a hard hat, now you’ve got a book bag, now you’ve built a house, and you can tell your children, ‘I built that house,'” Stoneman says of the pride that YouthBuild students feel.
Since 1994, when federal money for YouthBuild first went into local communities, the program has put up 28,000 units of affordable housing in 273 communities across the country.
“Self, family, then community,” Alexander says of the way he worked to get on a better path before raising a family and building a better society. “You have to take care of yourself first. You have to heal.”
People in low income communities should have the opportunity to improve their own communities, Stoneman says, adding “that’s an energy that needs to be unleashed, and AmeriCorps does have a priority on including low income people in giving service in their own communities.”
YouthBuild is one of the organizations doing the most to enhance the culture of service in America, a topic the New York Times recently explored in an editorial previewing the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. And General Stanley McChrystal is just one of a number of leaders who has outlined the importance of giving all young Americans the opportunity to serve.
Click the Take Action button to learn how you can join NationSwell and The Franklin Project to spread the word on service year opportunities, and make sure to tweet thoughts or questions with the #serviceyear hashtag.
NationSwell is featuring various service opportunities in a series of live Google Hangouts On Air. Next month, we’ll be talking with CityYear, a nonprofit that partners with public schools to provide targeted student interventions.