YouthBuild USA engages 300 low-income California youth to become community leaders

Receives $1.4 million grant from Knight Foundation to expand its YouthBuild national alumni program

Related Link 

"YouthBuild: sharing a recipe for community progress" by Jeff Coates on Knight Blog

SACRAMENTO (April 17, 2013) — YouthBuild USA has announced that 300 low-income students in California will benefit from a new plan designed to expand YouthBuild’s leadership development program in states across the country, with $1.4 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The announcement was made today at the annual California YouthBuild Coalition State Capitol Day event, attended by state politicians, YouthBuild graduates and other community members.

With the Knight Foundation grant, YouthBuild USA will help California YouthBuild programs engage YouthBuild students around annual California leadership conferences, modeled on the organization’s national conferences. The conferences enable low-income young people to influence relevant local and state policies through advocacy, as well as meetings with elected officials and other community leaders. A total of 300 YouthBuild students and graduates will be able to attend the California conferences during the next three years.

In addition to providing technical assistance, YouthBuild USA will share the best practices of its national leadership development and alumni engagement activities with YouthBuild San Jose. The model can then be replicated across the network of 26 YouthBuild programs that are members of the California YouthBuild Coalition.

Bob Hennessy, president of the California YouthBuild Coalition and executive director of San Jose Conservation Corps, sponsor of YouthBuild San Jose, said “This grant will enable us to develop leaders in the 26 YouthBuild programs across the state and to leverage state and national funding as we develop more than 300 potential leaders in our communities.”

 “By encouraging and investing in the emergence of new leaders we are advancing broad-based community engagement,” said Jeff Coates, Knight Foundation strategic initiatives associate. “The goal in California is to create a model that can be used across the country in order to scale and amplify YouthBuild’s proven record of success.”

A significant number of YouthBuild graduates go on to become leaders in their careers and communities, according to the results of a 2012 study by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), funded by Knight Foundation. The study, Pathways into Leadership: A Study of YouthBuild Graduates, showed that more than one-third of the surveyed participants from alumni leadership programs have gone on to college and become professional educators or youth workers. Many hold public office or serve as church officials.

The national YouthBuild program has built a reputation as a valuable resource and second chance for young people who have left school without a diploma. Through YouthBuild, students rebuild their lives by earning a diploma or GED, learning construction skills while building affordable housing in their communities, securing good jobs, going on to postsecondary education and taking care of themselves and their families.

“We have high expectations for YouthBuild students,” said Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA founder and president.  “We give students a voice and the tools to develop real leadership skills that are valuable in the workplace and in the broader community.”

Ely Flores, LA CAUSA YouthBuild graduate and outreach manager, GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, is a shining example of YouthBuild’s success. In 2006, he started a youth leadership program that is now an independent nonprofit organization: Leadership through Empowerment, Action and Dialogue, Inc. (LEAD). 

“During my time at the LA CAUSA YouthBuild program in East Los Angeles, I discovered I was indeed a leader and that there were leadership assets within me and within my community,” he said. “My organization [LEAD] is sought out locally, nationally and internationally to help build innovative youth leadership development programs with an emphasis on social justice.”

About YouthBuild and YouthBuild USA

YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities—housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable, increasingly green housing in their communities and preparing for postsecondary success. Emphasis is placed on leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each other’s success.

YouthBuild programs are sponsored by local community- and faith-based organizations and public entities that raise funds from a variety of sources. Primary funding for local YouthBuild programs comes from the US Department of Labor under the federal YouthBuild program, authorized under the Workforce Investment Act and administered by the Employment and Training Administration. There are now 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, Washington, and the Virgin Islands. Since 1994, 110,000 YouthBuild students have built 21,000 units of affordable, increasing green housing. YouthBuild is now being replicated by NGOs and governments in Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Serbia, and South Africa.

YouthBuild USA is an international nonprofit organization that works to unleash the positive energy of low-income young people to rebuild their communities and their lives. YouthBuild USA leads the international YouthBuild movement and contributes to the broader youth and community development fields in order to diminish poverty in the United States and internationally. The US Department of Labor contracts with YouthBuild USA to provide training and technical assistance to its YouthBuild grantees. For more information, visit

About the California YouthBuild Coalition

The primary mission of the California YouthBuild Coalition is to advocate increasing resources and public recognition of the need for a concerted effort directed towards expanding employment and educational opportunities for low income youth in the state of California. For more information, visit

About YouthBuild San Jose and San Jose Conservation Corps

YouthBuild San Jose offers job training, employment, career counseling, and leadership development opportunities to unemployed and out of school young adults. They learn construction and rehabilitation of affordable houses in their own community while working towards getting a high school diploma. For more information, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

Press Contacts:

• California YouthBuild Coalition, YouthBuild San Jose, San Jose Conservation Corps: Bob Hennessy, 408-515-4254 (mobile),

•YouthBuild USA: Charlie Clark, 617.741.1288 (office), 508-274-1372 (mobile)

•Knight Foundation:  Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, (305) 908-2677,

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit