BOSTON (SHNS) – The sound of chanting students rang through the State House during the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition’s annual advocacy day Tuesday, as the group looks to keep hold of its funding to serve around 300 participants in 11 cities.
The program combines education, like working toward a GED, with community service and vocational experience. The coalition reported Tuesday that more than 78 percent of students who go through the program go on to employment or higher education.
And while more than 28 percent of students come to YouthBuild after involvement in the criminal justice system, the coalition tracks its participants’ recidivism rate at just 4.4 percent from enrollment to a year after they complete the program.
“Typical student is between 16 and 24, has dropped out of school, been unsuccessful in work, and is looking to change their lives,” executive director Terry Moran said. Moran spoke glowingly of a former student, who came to YouthBuild in 2006 “without ever setting foot in a high school” after becoming a teenage mother of two. “She was the first person in that class to graduate, to get her GED. She then got her associate’s degree, her bachelor’s degree, her real estate license, and she’s working on her master’s,” Moran said.
Gov. Maura Healey proposed $2.4 million in funding for the YouthBuild programs, the same level that Gov. Charlie Baker proposed in the last three budget processes. In each of those years (fiscals 2021-2023), the Legislature built an extra $600,000 onto the governor’s request and set the line item at an even $3 million.
The coalition is looking to keep its funding about even, though Moran said there’s interest in starting new YouthBuild programs in Pittsfield, Taunton, and the Cape Cod region.