A local nonprofit organization is helping break the cycle of poverty by unleashing the intelligence and positive energy of low-income, out-of-school young adults to rebuild their communities and their lives. YouthBuild at Tampa Housing Authority helps participants build the skill sets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood and leadership.
Typically identified as ‘marginalized,’ ‘disconnected’ and ‘at-risk,’ these young people, who are typically defined by their challenges and not their potential, are offered the knowledge, training and opportunity that leads to long-term professional and personal success.
The international program started in Tampa in partnership with Tampa Housing Authority in 2009 thanks to initial startup funding through a grant. John Arroyo was hired as its program manager, and he is still in that role 13 years later.
“It’s so fulfilling to help people who’ve had obstacles in their path, like having to financially support their family at a young age or those who got in trouble with the law, find success,” he said. “We meet them where they’re at and take them where they want to go.”
Participants pursue their education by taking classes to earn a GED or high school diploma, prepare for future careers through vocational training and grow into community leaders, building brighter futures for themselves and their neighborhoods.
The program uses construction as the core and provides hands-on training in different aspects of the industry. Participants earn up to $250 every two weeks plus incentives for reaching goals.
Arroyo said YouthBuild has been a success. He estimates that approximately 250 young adults have benefited from the program since its inception.
One participant living in Riverview wanted to become a welder, so YouthBuild paid for his education at Erwin Technical College. Another participant always wanted to work in child care, so it helped her get licensed and now she’s working at a day care center.
Arroyo said it’s particularly rewarding when participants who successfully complete the program come back to volunteer as mentors.
“They get on their feet and then give back in some way to help others,” he said.
The next program class, which can accommodate between 60-70 participants, starts on Tuesday, September 6. To qualify for the program, applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 24, have a strong desire to further their career and/or education, be committed to working hard and have a desire to earn a GED or high school diploma.
Volunteer opportunities are needed to support the program through donations of money and time. Mentors are also needed, especially tutors to work with program participants in math and reading. “Tutors can be high-school age students,” said Arroyo. “We are grateful for peer-to-peer mentoring.”
For more information about YouthBuild, call 813-391-2841 or visit www.thafl.com/youthbuild.