YouthBuild Philadelphia

“I’ve been going through stuff, but I manage to show up and stay resilient, and I’m proud of that. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten at YouthBuild is that nothing is handed to you; you’ve got to put in the work. And when I think about my future, it makes me go at it more.”

-Andrea, YouthBuild Philadelphia graduate

“I’ve been going through stuff, but I manage to show up and stay resilient, and I’m proud of that. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten at YouthBuild is that nothing is handed to you; you’ve got to put in the work. And when I think about my future, it makes me go at it more.”

-Andrea, YouthBuild Philadelphia graduate

What it does

Some 2.4 million young adults age 16 to 24 have dropped out of school. YouthBuild offers a second chance to obtain a high school diploma, real-life work opportunities, and support to ensure that small hiccups don’t turn into insurmountable barriers. YouthBuild Philadelphia, part of the national YouthBuild network, operates the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School of the Philadelphia School District. Students completing the program earn a high school diploma (not a GED) in one year and certifications through employer partners in one of four areas: building trades, child care, health care, or business administration/customer service. It also offers dual enrollment with the Community College of Philadelphia.

Whether or not they earn a degree, all students receive an additional year of YouthBuild services after they leave the school. Perhaps most importantly, YouthBuild staff members meet students where they are, helping with finding housing, applying for SNAP benefits, preparing for an interview, or talking through a conflict with a family member.

How effective is it

YouthBuild’s goal is to give students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and help them move into postsecondary education or employment. More than 70% of YouthBuild Philadelphia students graduate the program. Of those who graduate, more than 90% move on to full-time employment or postsecondary education with over 75% retention one year later.

The program costs less than $30,000 per student over two years. CHIP used YouthBuild’s program results, along with their per student program costs, to estimate the cost for a student to complete the program and move into postsecondary education or employment. That program result costs approximately $47,000. Compare that to an estimated $623,000 in lifetime social welfare costs and lost income/tax revenue per high school dropout, to understand YouthBuild’s ‘bang for buck’: a savings of $13 for every $1 spent on the program.

Nationally, after 2.5 years, YouthBuild participants are 23% more likely to be employed in jobs earning over $10 per hour, and earn 12% more on a weekly basis than youth receiving other services. They are also less likely to rely on government services and more likely to live with their children.

How you can help

Philanthropic contributions account for 30% of YouthBuild Philadelphia’s budget, with local, state, and federal government funds covering the rest. You can donate any amount directly through its website: $25 can provide needed classroom supplies, $50 can purchase worksite tools, and $250 can furnish a classroom. Philanthropy may be particularly important now because of proposed budget cuts to YouthBuild’s primary federal funder, the U.S. Department of Labor. YouthBuild Philadelphia also heavily relies on partnerships for its success. Donors can partner as an employer, or volunteer as a mentor or tutor.

Personalize this project

YouthBuild affiliates operate in urban, rural, and suburban locations across the country. Donors can give to YouthBuild USA or find a local affiliate. Funders interested in bolstering local efforts can provide financial support to increase career tracks or provide connections to local employers for training and employment in new fields. Other evidence-based programs working with low income youth include Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet Program, the National Guard ChalleNGE programs, and Year Up.

Note: A previous version of this profile stated: “Nationally, after 2.5 years, YouthBuild participants are 23% more likely to be employed and earn 12% more than youth receiving other services.” To clarify: YouthBuild participants are 23% more likely to be employed in jobs earning over $10 per hour, and earn 12% more on a weekly basis than youth receiving other services. The clarification was made on January 16, 2018.