Riviera Beach YouthBuild (YouthBuild) targets the unique status of young men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 who dropped out of high school, lack job skills, and have no apparent path to success. Many participants have criminal records, housing issues, or come from generational dysfunction. In spite of these obstacles, participants are committed to re-building their own future as they rebuild their community. Participants remain in the program for up to 2 years, with a year of follow-up services to set them firmly on a path to success.
Because the construction industry can be more forgiving than many other industries, and because the construction field has a real need for a younger, qualified work force, YouthBuild participants spend 50% of their time gaining hands-on construction experience on a variety of sites within the community, with an emphasis on rehabilitating the homes of low income and senior home owners. Since January of 2010 we have rehabilitated a total of 52 homes of low income, senior residents. We have completed 100% of our targeted homes. We have also partnered with Habitat for Humanity, where our participants gain valuable experience in new construction as they build homes for qualified low/medium income residents, contributing to the creation of affordable housing. We recently partnered with FPL’s Power to Care program to paint, landscape and complete minor repairs to the homes of six low income seniors in the Monroe Heights neighborhood of Riviera Beach.
The participants also spend 50% of their time in the classroom, working towards attaining their GED or high school diploma, and improving their literacy skills. We have focused much of our classroom time on math and English, which seem to be the greatest challenge to our participants. We also offer an ongoing literature and creative writing class to instill a love a reading and encourage thoughtful communication.
At the core of the YouthBuild model is leadership development. All participants are required to be involved in a committee, and these committees play a vital role in the direction of the overall program. There are 3 committees: a policy committee, a worksite committee, and a volunteer and community involvement committee. All of our participants volunteer up to 20 hours per month on projects chosen by the volunteer committee. We have found that, since implementing the committees, our participants are much more vested in the overall success of the program.