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BLOG: Constructive Construction Gives Hope, Opportunity to Young Adults

Without fanfare or fireworks, a notable youth program has been building homes for years.

Mon October 10, 2016 - National Edition
Jeff Winke

YouthBuild is a national initiative targeting low-income youth through its local programs.
YouthBuild is a national initiative targeting low-income youth through its local programs.

While the mainstream media wallows in the destruction, drama, and assigning blame in the police shooting that spawned the “civil unrest” that put Milwaukee in the news for a couple of days in August, an alternative, online news feed I get has been covering the promises, programs and activities that counter the negative. One such program that the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service recently reported on has been around for some time—the YouthBuild construction program.

“The YouthBuild program is designed to provide young adults, age 18-24, with education and hands-on construction training while building homes for low- and moderate-income families,” said Patrick Schrank, director of programmatic services at Milwaukee Christian Center, the sponsoring organization for YouthBuild. He added that YouthBuild members work toward attaining their GED and industry credentials, learn basic construction skills, and serve their community by building homes and performing additional volunteer work.

What's notable is that the program has been quietly building homes in Milwaukee without fanfare or fireworks for years. On August 17, 2016, they unveiled their 14th constructed home, which deserves a round of applause.

With further research, I learned that YouthBuild is actually a national initiative targeting low-income youth through its local programs. In 2014, 260 YouthBuild programs in the United States engaged nearly 9,000 low-income young adults who had left high school without a diploma, with approximately one-third having been court-involved.

Additional impressive numbers show that since 1994, over 140,000 YouthBuild participants have performed 48 million community service hours and produced over 30,000 units of affordable, increasingly green housing in rural and urban communities across the USA. The ripple effects of this work through young people helping family members, friends, and neighbors cannot be measured.

In the case of Milwaukee, the program hits at one of the issues minority youth in the city and throughout the country appear to be grappling with: getting an economic opportunity.

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