The successful YouthBuild program, housed at Montana State University-Northern, which was designed to help at-risk students acquire their GED and certifications attractive to possible employers, is quickly on its way out.
Robert Anderson, the YouthBuild representative at Montana State University-Northern, said the program wasn’t able to receive the funding through the Department of Labor grant.
“It’s just one of those things,” Anderson said.
According to Dorothy Stoneman, the president of YouthBuild USA, 54 YouthBuild programs have closed their doors since cuts made in 2011. As of June 27, there were 271 operating YouthBuild programs across the nation. Of these, 197 were eligible to apply for grants. Around 142 programs were given funds, of which the Northern chapter was not included.
“Some of us feel guilt and shame when we don’t win,” Stoneman said in a letter to YouthBuild programs. “I personally feel deeply responsible for the fact that every one of you didn’t get funded. I have to remind myself: these cuts are not my fault.”
Stoneman said in the letter that the lack of funding to these 54 now-defunct programs is purely political and results from “too many elected officials who have become obsessed with austerity, with deficits, with cutting programs and decreasing government.”
Anderson said that 30 percent of the funds doled out to the YouthBuild programs was reserved for new programs and that this might have been one of the reasons Northern’s program was passed up.
“It’s a tragedy for the area,” Anderson said. “The youth don’t really have an alternative.”
In the four years the program was in existence at Northern, YouthBuild saw 144 young adults enroll in their program and helped 98 of them acquire their GED or any of the various trade certifications students could earn through the program, like CPR, carpentry and other fields attractive to possible employers.
“The program was very good for the area, good for the community and good for the kids,” Anderson said.
Part of the program extends beyond the students’ graduation. YouthBuild offers assistance to students when needed for one year. The Northern program is still around to finish this responsibility but doesn’t have any students currently enrolled and will not take any new submissions.
The website for YouthBuild says, “In local YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people and participating in leadership development activities in their communities.
“There are 273 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, Washington D.C., and the Virgin Islands engaging approximately 10,000 young adults per year,” according to the YouthBuild website.