YouthBuild USA receives $1 million award

Dorothy Stoneman, president and founder of YouthBuild USA, is a winner of the prestigious 2007 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship, which honors and provides support for the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs whose organizations have the potential to resolve critical social issues through innovative and effective approaches. YouthBuild USA will receive $1 million as part of the international award.

YouthBuild USA is a national nonprofit that supports hundreds of community-based organizations, including Comprehensive Community Solutions YouthBuild Rockford Program, to engage low-income high school dropouts in rebuilding their communities and their lives through building affordable housing while completing their high school education.

YouthBuild USA is one of 10 winners of the Skoll Awards. Stoneman and YouthBuild USA join a prestigious group of Skoll entrepreneurs working around the world on issues such as tolerance and human rights, health, environmental sustainability, economic and social equity, peace and security, and institutional responsibility. With headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., the Skoll Foundation was created by eBay’s first president, Jeff Skoll, to promote his vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world. The Skoll Foundation is awarding more than $10 million to the 10 winners, three of whom are based in the United States.

In YouthBuild programs, 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 low-income people.

YouthBuild emphasizes leadership development and creates a positive peer group that can compete with the lure of the streets while developing new young leaders who have transcended poverty in America’s poorest communities.

Today, there are 226 YouthBuild programs across the nation—including YouthBuild Rockford in Rockford, Ill.—engaging approximately 8,000 young adults each year in America’s poorest urban, rural and tribal communities. Since 1994, more than 68,000 YouthBuild students have produced 16,000 units of low-income housing. During this period, the YouthBuild Rockford Program has served more than 500 young adults and built 31 units of low-income housing.

YouthBuild empowers young adults to transform their lives and their communities. According to a 2004 Brandeis University study of 900 YouthBuild graduates:

75 percent went on to college or jobs earning more than $10 an hour;

the recidivism rate for young offenders was less than 15 percent, compared to 67 percent nationally;

70 percent registered to vote; nearly half have voted; and

65 percent said they expected to live longer because of YouthBuild—an average of 32 years longer.

YouthBuild USA plans to use the Skoll Award prize to raise public awareness about the potential of low-income youth and to build political will at federal and state levels to reconnect all youth.

“We are proud to be a part of the national YouthBuild network,” said Kerry Knodle, executive director of Comprehensive Community Solutions, sponsor of the YouthBuild Rockford Program, and president of the Illinois YouthBuild Coalition. “Because the YouthBuild Coalition has succeeded in getting YouthBuild authorized as a federally-funded program, communities like ours can help our young adults overcome obstacles and transform their lives and their neighborhoods.

Knodle added: “I hope that this award helps YouthBuild increase its visibility as an effective solution to the issues facing low-income communities, and, as a result, gain additional public and private support at the federal, state and local levels so that more YouthBuild programs can open their doors to more youth. In Rockford, the program has turned away over 2,500 applicants due to lack of funding to support expansion of the program.”

Sally Osberg, president of the Skoll Foundation, said: “Dorothy Stoneman is a tremendous addition to the community of Skoll entrepreneurs and someone who has demonstrated those key characteristics of a successful social entrepreneur: inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage and fortitude. Like all the organizations in our portfolio, YouthBuild USA is tackling a complex social problem with a sustainable, scalable solution.”

from the April 25-May 2, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!