Letter from the CEO, Lynn Rippy
For YouthBuild Louisville, as everyone in the world, the 2019/2020 fiscal year was unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to make rapid changes to both our year-long schedule and our daily operations. Although the transition to a new normal presented unique challenges, YouthBuild Louisville (YBL) was nonetheless able to meet them in stride. Instead of losing capacity like so many other organizations, YouthBuild’s capacity has grown. Driven by our mission to equip vulnerable young adults with the resources, job training, and life skills required to attain stability and security for themselves and their families, especially during a time of such uncertainty, YouthBuild took the opportunity to reimagine and expand its provision of services.
In 2019/2020, YBL opened the Urban Conservation Corps (UCC), our first full-time job training program that prepares students for work in the environmental sector – a growing field as climate change continues to worsen and further destabilize our natural spaces. In their first year alone, UCC members donated more than 6,000 service hours. Two new apprenticeship partnerships also began this year: highway construction and apartment property maintenance. Additionally, in recognizing the heightened need for shelter where young people can quarantine during COVID-19, YouthBuild launched the Youth Housing Collaborative Program, a collaboration between YBL, Kentucky Youth Career Center, Louisville Urban League, Louisville Youth Group, JCPS, Louisville Free Public Library, and the Coalition for the Homeless. So far, the new program has successfully housed 25 young people and their children with the goal of housing 40 more by the end of 2021. Funding was made possible by a grant from the HUD Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). This opportunity is bolstering both public health and the individual stability of our young people.
Thanks to our new 8,000 sq. ft. building expansion, which finished construction in May of 2020, these new programs have a home on the YouthBuild Louisville campus. In addition to the UCC and Youth Housing Collaborative Program, YouthBuild’s new building also hosts a home for SummerWorks, which has since enrolled, trained, or employed through direct placement approximately 2,000 young people from across the community. YBL added four new case managers and two housing navigators as well, who have since provided counseling and other supportive services to 58 youth experiencing homelessness this year. In fact, many of these services were made possible by the building expansion itself. The YouthBuild Louisville campus now boasts a full laundry room, a food pantry, and a shower available to youth who need them. YBL hosts weekly AA meetings and will offer GED tests on nights and weekends by 2021. This expansion offers the city of Louisville available testing times on nights and weekends to work around the community and our students’ busy schedules.
Throughout this major expansion, COVID-19 has posed unique challenges that required creative solutions. The recent widespread shift to digital mediums meant that our students were unable to get the same in-person learning experience that has been impactful in the past. As DOL awarded grants a little later in 2019 due to the government shutdown, instead of starting classes in August, the students in YouthBuild’s class of 2019/2020 had to wait until January 2020 to begin the program. With the advent of COVID-19, they had to be sent home in March to switch to digital learning until June. Recognizing the difficult circumstances that many of our students come from, YBL adapted to this change by providing digital literacy training, laptops, and internet access to over 90 individuals. Altogether, YouthBuild was still able to award eight High School Diplomas/GEDs this year, along with seven education upgrades and multiple workforce and safety certifications. By expanding the variety and accessibility of services that YouthBuild offers, we have been able to meet the needs of our students in a more holistic way as they navigate the interrelated crises of COVID-19, unemployment, slowed down responses on government services, and eviction.
Finally, the unrest and structural racism laid bare in Louisville this year has had a profound impact on staff, students, alumni, and the Board of YouthBuild Louisville. Through it all, YouthBuild has stuck to its mission – to invest in the potential of young adults to build strong, sustainable communities for themselves and their families to thrive. YouthBuild is grateful for the ongoing support of our Board and Community members who have softened the blows of past and current realities by stepping up to assist in the following ways:
- Monthly stocking our food pantry to feed young families while they’re here;
- Providing food weekly for our young people to bring home to their communities when they leave;
- Providing apartments and furniture for young people who are housing insecure.
Every day we work to lighten the load of systemic injustice because we know that in order for things to change, we must embody that change ourselves. We encourage you to join us in that commitment.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
President & CEO