Patrick Breton wasn't convinced that he needed an education. He thought he could make a livable income without a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, and so he dropped out. But Patrick soon realized that his assumptions were wrong. He began hanging with the wrong crowd and making poor decisions, and as a result, he found himself in trouble with the law. Patrick also struggled to find a good paying job, instead jumping from one dead-end position to another.
As his future began to look less and less promising, Patrick was introduced to YouthBuild. The program helped Patrick redefine his goals, and reconsider the importance of an education. As a YouthBuild participant, he completed his GED and enrolled in college. The YouthBuild instructors and curriculum instilled a sense of confidence in Patrick, and today, he has his associate's degree from Massasoit Community College and is studying for his bachelor's degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Patrick is now a frequent public speaker, giving the keynote address at the Massachusetts YouthBuild State House Day and speaking at the Grad Nation Ceremony before General Colin Powell and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. During his speech at the ceremony, Patrick reflected on his experience at YouthBuild emphasizing "how beneficial educational support is for helping troubled young people improve themselves and succeed."
Thousands of low-income young people like Patrick stand to miss out on educational and economic opportunities without critical interventions like YouthBuild.
Increasing Opportunities for Postsecondary Education
Over 100,000 YouthBuild students have worked toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, while learning job skills building affordable housing and participating in leadership development activities. Since 1990, YouthBuild USA has led a national network of 273 local YouthBuild programs and it contributes to the broader youth and community development fields in order to diminish poverty in the USA and worldwide.
In December 2008, YouthBuild USA launched its Postsecondary Education (PSE) Initiative to support low-income youth during the transition from high school to and through college to productive employment. The initiative is an extension of YouthBuild's current programs and aims to increase the likelihood of students' success in postsecondary education through partnerships that provide students with the right academic, emotional, and financial supports to succeed in their postsecondary pursuits.
PSE is comprised of three key elements:
- Ensuring academic rigor, including aligning curricula between high schools and post-secondary institutions to reduce the need for remediation;
- Building postsecondary partnerships, including setting up college credit agreements and generating shared accountability between postsecondary institutions and YouthBuild sites; and
- Providing ongoing support, including transition services for students, as well as financial aid support and guidance.
By building an innovative program that works with students and higher education institutions, YouthBuild USA is making sure students have the financial resources they need to stay in school, the habits that will make them successful in the classroom, and the curricula that will teach them what they need to know to succeed in postsecondary education and rewarding careers.
Opening Up Multiple Pathways to Success
YouthBuild USA understands that in today's world multiple pathways exist to attain success, but each one requires some form of education or training to succeed. With over two decades of experience in youth development and in driving systemic change, YouthBuild USA provides support systems for low-income youth and encourages their pursuit of these various pathways. Its PSE initiative has shown some success to date, with increases in college enrollment rates from 20 percent to 29 percent in year one to 38 percent in year two.
YouthBuild USA and its PSE Initiative have been selected by the Pathways Fund, initially for its outcomes in High School Graduation/GED Attainment and College Enrollment, but with the potential to be supported for all four outcomes of the Pathways Fund. Through the Pathways grant, YouthBuild USA will help 480 students annually to access and complete postsecondary education in Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Providence, RI; and St. Paul, MN.