U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer recently announced that the YMCA of Greater New York will receive a $1.1 million grant to fund the Flushing branch’s YouthBuild program.
The grant, provided by the Department of Labor, will help YouthBuild in assisting out-of-school youth, ages 16 to 24, in getting diplomas or GEDs, job training and career placements through local partners. The program also teaches job skills by making participants help build affordable housing for homeless or low-income people.
“We were surprised that the funding came out. It’s a difficult time for community programs, especially with the [city] budget,” said Claire Dwyer, director of the Flushing YouthBuild program. “But we’re excited to serve young people in the Queens community and to work with the students again.”
Participants spend six to 24 months in the full-time program by dividing their time between work at construction sites and the YouthBuild Alternative school where they study for their GEDs or high school diplomas.
The education and training program has been running in Flushing since 1995 and offers services to youths in various neighborhoods of Queens such as Corona, Flushing, the Rockaways and Jamaica. Some participants are high school dropouts, have aged out of foster care or have been in the juvenile justice system.
The YMCA is partnered with the Queens Workforce 1 Career Center to provide training, job placement and employment placement counseling. Macys and Modell’s are among local employers that have hired program participants.
The grant resulted from Schumer writing a letter in 2010 to the Department of Labor outlining the accomplishments of Flushing’s YouthBuild program and requesting funding. “[Schumer] has always been a big supporter of YouthBuild,” said Dwyer
“By building math and reading skills, YouthBuild programs help students finish high school and put them on the right path towards a college degree, a job and a brighter future,” said Schumer. “With this critical investment in building our future, the Flushing YMCA can now keep its Queens YouthBuild programs open for business.”
More than 13,000 young people have participated in YouthBuild programs in 44 states since 2006. The program aims to have 70 percent of their graduates earn their GEDs; 75 percent gain employment, a post-secondary education or a college degree and 85 percent placed in employment retaining their jobs through 90 days. The program has also been successful in sending participants to college and helping them secure high-wage jobs in the building industry.