Joined by community organizers and city officials , U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., presented YouthBuild Louisville with $1.1 million in federal funding that will be used to help at-risk teenagers enroll in college and find jobs over the summer.
The alternative program offers individuals aged 16-24 with job training for in-demand industry careers nationwide. Locally the group’s participants include teenagers who have been in the juvenile justice system, aging out of foster care and high school dropouts.
Yarmuth says the grants are important because these programs motivate young people in the city who many have given up on helping.
“I tend to support programs that have long-term payback to the country and the economy. And when you invest in people and take people who are statistically going to be drains on society and make them productive citizens that’s a huge turnaround in terms of the federal budget, not to speak of the lives you’ve helped,” he says.
The funding is part of a $75.4 million grant given to YouthBuild groups nationwide that will help pay for their initiatives over the next two years.
In addition to receiving academic and occupational skills training, students in the program develop leadership skills and participate in community service opportunities. YouthBuild participants learn green building techniques, assist with retrofitting existing homes and discover ways to make neighborhoods more environmentally friendly.
“Our young people are waiting to prove their talents and skills to their families and the Louisville community we serve,” says YouthBuild executive director Lynn Rippy. “Young adults are at our doors in record numbers and this investment allows them the new opportunities necessary for their successful transition to prosperity through love and encouragement, jobs training and education. They spend one year with us changing their own lives while changing the neighborhoods in which they live. Louisville is never the same as result of their personal commitments.”
More than 97 percent of incoming students graduate prepared for post-secondary education, apprenticeship placement or military service. However, Rippy says YouthBuild has been forced to turn away at least 150 interested youth each year due to budget constraints and the limited availability of construction and environmental partners.
Yarmuth warned the debate about spending cuts in Washington under the Republican-controlled House makes funding to help low-income youth increasingly scarce.
“This is the type of program that’s going to be under assault for the foreseeable future,” Yarmuth says. “These are always going to be on the chopping block and it’s going to require a great deal of concerted effort and I hope citizen lobbying to preserve this type of funding.”