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What Works With At-Risk Youths

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 66 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2004 Pages: 64-66,68
Tim Cross
Date Published
April 2004
4 pages
This article describes the development, components, and effectiveness of YouthBuild USA and some of its local manifestations, along with plans for the program's future.
In 1978, a group of New York City teens approached Dorothy Stoneman, then director of the Youth Action Program of the East Harlem Block Schools, and asked for her help in renovating an abandoned building to house homeless dogs. The successful completion of this project led the Youth Action Program to form a citywide coalition in 1984 to replicate the program. In 1988, national demand to replicate this program led to the founding of YouthBuild USA in 1990. YouthBuild programs provide low-income, out-of-school and out-of-work youths and young adults ages 16 to 24 the opportunity to participate in a caring and supportive community under a model that focuses on education, construction, leadership development, counseling, and graduate services. Typical participants remain in the program for 8 months, spending half the time in the classroom pursuing a high school diploma or GED and the other half at a construction site learning skills from building affordable housing for members of their community. Participants are involved in making decisions about staff selection, program planning, and management at both the program and community levels. YouthBuild programs are in urban, rural, and tribal communities across the country and are linked by one national intermediary that provides individualized technical assistance, publications, training, and professional development. This article briefly describes the YouthBuild programs in Houston-Galveston, TX; Jacksonville, FL; and in Trenton and Newark, NJ. Regarding program effectiveness, 85 percent of those who were convicted of felonies before they entered the program have not reoffended since completing the program. In addition, two-thirds of the program graduates who had been involved with the criminal justice system prior to entering the program have not been arrested, convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, or spent one or more nights in jail or in prison. YouthBuild is in the process of expanding it collaborations with members of the criminal justice system in order to find better ways to work with delinquent youth. A case study of one YouthBuild participant is provided.