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February 4, 2011

YouthBuild leaders

Las Vegas--I am with more than 100 alumni of YouthBuild who have turned into effective leaders. Most are now professional youth workers, and many run organizations. When they entered YouthBuild, they were high-school dropouts. (That is a criterion for admission.) Most YouthBuild students also have many other challenges, from criminal records to drug abuse. On entering the program, participants estimate their own life expectancies at 40 (on average), whereas upon completing the program, they have raised the estimate to 72--evidence that they have gained a sense of opportunity, optimism, and purpose.* They join in order to earn some money and gain a GED, but they are treated from the beginning with genuine respect and are empowered to make important collective decisions. We believe their civic empowerment is an important reason for their success in the program.

This video below emphasizes the severe problems participants face before YouthBuild and the personal progress they make. It does not do full justice to their political empowerment--the degree to which they become effective public speakers, deliberators, and leaders.

There are 100,000 YouthBuild alumni--not all successful, but still the nucleus of a mass movement. Attending a conference of YouthBuild alumni makes you feel that the Civil Rights Movement is still alive.

*Andrew Hahn, Thomas D. Leavitt, Erin McNamara Horvat, and James Earl Davis, “Life after YouthBuild” (Somerville, MA: YouthBuild USA, 2004) via www.youthbuild.org.

February 4, 2011 10:34 AM | category: none



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