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First Lady to Meet with YouthBuildUSA




WASHINGTON, DC -- More than 100 YouthBuild AmeriCorps students and graduates from across the country will build an energy-efficient, affordable home on the National Mall during a day of service marking YouthBuild's 30th anniversary. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend the event and will meet with students and will make remarks. Several members of Congress will pitch in on the house with hammers and nails during the morning.    


In YouthBuild programs nationwide, low-income youth ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and poor people. About 90 percent of YouthBuild students have quit high school, and 40 percent have been through the court system. Emphasizing leadership development and community service, YouthBuild creates a positive peer group to compete with the lure of the streets while developing new young leaders who have transcended poverty in America's poorest communities. In 30 years, 84,000 students have built 18,000 units of affordable housing and have transformed their lives and communities.


President Barack Obama has been a supporter of YouthBuild, and $50 million for the federal YouthBuild program was included in the economic stimulus bill the president recently signed into law. To meet President Obama's call to create "green-collar" jobs, YouthBuild programs increasingly teach building techniques to protect the environment and to make YouthBuild graduates more competitive in the budding field of environmentally responsible construction. With support from the Wal-Mart Foundation, YouthBuild USA and its training partner, American YouthWorks, have trained more than 120 YouthBuild staff in a comprehensive approach to green construction. The goal is that by 2013, 75 percent of the homes built by YouthBuild students around the country will be green homes, with about half of them certified as such by a third-party, industry-recognized standard.


On the Mall, YouthBuild students will demonstrate these skills as they frame the walls and side an exterior wall of a house. Lumber and other materials are being pre-cut by students at the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. The house will be completed in Brownsville, Texas, and will be given to a single mother who works two jobs as a child care worker and home health aide. The mobile house she shares with her three daughters was badly damaged last summer by Hurricane Dolly. The new three-bedroom house will be located in a low-income rural Colonia neighborhood and will serve as a model for 85 other affordable green homes being developed by the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, the sponsoring organization of YouthBuild Brownsville.


At the event on the Mall, YouthBuild students will rotate between the construction site and a Green Academy located in an adjacent tent. At the academy, YouthBuild students and graduates will participate in activities focused on green building, green-collar jobs, green schools, energy responsibility, and environmental awareness.  For example, they will learn about the latest techniques to plant rooftop vegetable gardens so poor families can save money by growing their own vegetables. They also will learn about a technique that saves old-growth forests from destruction by using smaller pieces of lumber from managed forests, in which new trees are planted after others are cut down.


"For 30 years, YouthBuild students have been rebuilding their own lives and their communities," said Dorothy Stoneman, president and founder of YouthBuild USA, the national nonprofit that is the support center for local YouthBuild programs. "Our goal moving forward is to open the doors of YouthBuild to engage 50,000 highly disadvantaged young adults who are out of school and out of work -- and who want a second chance. By doing so, we will begin to break the cycle of poverty in this country."


YouthBuild began in 1978 when Stoneman asked teenagers in East Harlem what they would do if they had adults supporting them. They said they would take back abandoned buildings from drug dealers, rebuild them and give them to homeless families. Together, they rebuilt the first building in East Harlem. Today, YouthBuild is a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and is offered by local community-based organizations in 226 communities across the country. YouthBuild USA also is a partner with the Corporation for National and Community Service; about 60 local programs are YouthBuild AmeriCorps programs.  Almost all of the young people participating in the service day on the Mall are YouthBuild AmeriCorps members who will earn an AmeriCorps education award in return for their year of service.


Generous support for the event on the National Mall comes from the Wal-Mart Foundation and from Bank of America.







YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities including: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GED or high school diploma while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people and participating in leadership development activities in their communities. For more information, visit


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