Editor's note: Since this article was originally published, HoustonWorks has gone out of business. The new YouthBuild grant is operated by SER-Jobs for Progress.
Last month YouthBuild Houston and HoustonWorks teamed up with Houston Habitat for Humanity to participate in the Hands on Housing Block Party where volunteers worked to replace a broken garage and perform other home repairs, remove debris and plant flowers for an elderly resident in Jacinto City, Texas. In honor of Earth Day, the materials used were donated recycled materials.
HoustonWorks is a non-profit organization which administers federally funded workforce programs in Houston, offering services such as job training and placement, consulting, summer job programs and other youth programs including summer engineering camps and the YouthBuild Houston program.
YouthBuild Houston, an organization affiliated with the national YouthBuild Coalition, is a program designed specifically to create opportunities for young men and women to get a second chance in life through training and job placement in construction careers. To be eligible for the YouthBuild program, applicants must be 18 to 24 years old, have not graduated from high school, be United States citizens or legal residents, be registered with Selective Service (men only), and commit to being drug-free. In addition, applicants must also meet at least one at-risk determinant from of a list which includes being a former or current foster youth, being convicted as a youth or adult by the courts, or being a child of an incarcerated parent.
In the midst of the Block Party work day, a press conference was held in which several speakers addressed the workers and the press about the organizations involved. The YouthBuild students were encouraged to volunteer in their communities because it not only helps the community, but it builds experience and skills in themselves as well as giving each of them the pride of having done something good. In the following video, Algenita Davis, executive director of Houston’s Habitat for Humanity asks everyone present to “make service your life”, homeowner Mrs. Gutierrez thanks the volunteers (in Spanish) and a friend translates Mrs. Gutierrez words into English.
In addition to teaching vocational skills to the students in their program, YouthBuild also helps the former high school dropouts earn their GED and construction certification. By participating in work days with Habitat for Humanity, they complete hundreds of hours of community service. In a press release with more information about this event and all of its sponsors and participants, Houston Works CEO Larry Green summed up the impact of events such as this one:
“The Hands on Housing partnership ignites opportunities for youth to serve and become involved in realistic solutions to challenges facing our neighbors. Our YouthBuild Houston students call neighborhoods like Jacinto City home, so while our students transform their lives, they also transform their community.”