Almost 100 Hi-Line young people have obtained their GEDs and vocational training through Montana State University-Northern's nationally acclaimed YouthBuild program over the last four years.
Many of the young people have gone on to jobs in the construction trades.
YouthBuild members constructed homes for people on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, and they helped out with projects for a variety of community programs, such as Recycle Hi-Line and Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump.
All of this is coming to an end.
The federal money that funds the program has been cut back, and there won’t be enough funds to continue the Northern program.
Potential at-risk students along the Hi-Line will be the losers.
The program offered a second chance to young people who for one reason or another couldn’t cut it in traditional schools.
YouthBuild opened doors to students who had seen doors shut in their faces time and again.
Some students couldn’t make it through this program, but many did. The annual graduation ceremonies for YouthBuild participants was always an inspiring event.
The program is the victim of sequestration, overall budget cuts and an anti-government feeling in the nation’s capital.
On a federal balance sheet the people who have graduated from YouthBuild may be nameless, faceless people — but not to folks who have seen the graduation ceremonies where young people who have been success-challenged are suddenly successful.
There will still be lots of young people along the Hi-Line who could take advantage of programs like YouthBuild, but there will be no YouthBuild to serve them.
Sadly, the responsibility to help at-risk students who need a second chance will fall to schools, churches community groups and local and tribal governments that are already stretched too thin.
These young people are at a key point in their lives. The mentoring and training they receive from programs such as YouthBuild can make a big difference. These young people are too valuable a resource to waste.