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YouthBuild transforms homes – and youth

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Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:17 am

In spite of rain and a tornado threat, St. Louis YouthBuild managed to celebrate the ribbon-cutting on a north St. Louis County home they had been renovating for the past six months.

As part of the St. Louis YouthBuild program, low-income youth, 18 to 24, work with journeyman carpenters to transform rundown houses throughout the St. Louis area into rental homes for low-income families.

“We have been able to help to improve a number of neighborhoods by building new housing or renovating abandoned houses,” said Julia Tibbs, St. Louis YouthBuild executive director.

“We also have been able to assist so many young people who didn’t have hope for the future and were on the wrong path. They are now doing positive things and giving back to the community.”

About 75 percent of program participants are high-school dropouts or face academic challenges. By going through the full-time program, following an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily schedule, students earn the equivalent to a high school diploma. This year, there are 33 students participating.

Over the past 19 years, the program has helped more than 500 young adults, improved about 150 homes and awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships for advanced education to its students.

The recent ribbon-cutting on a three-bedroom home in Glasgow Village fell on National YouthBuild Day, when the local youth celebrated with more than 270 other YouthBuild programs across the nation.

“We stepped out together, stepped up to tell our stories and let our collective light shine to help expand the American Dream to low-income opportunity youth across America,” Tibbs said.

YouthBuild USA was started informally in 1988 and incorporated in 1990. There are now 264 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. Over 120,000 YouthBuild students have built over 22,000 units of affordable, increasingly green, housing since 1994.

Several alumni attended the event as well – some who have gone on to earn their masters and doctorate degrees.

“YouthBuild showed them how to get off the streets, go to college and earn a living to support themselves and families,” Tibbs said. “It was a great day to celebrate these young people’s success.”

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