Combining work experience with intensive technical apprenticeship and community service, YouthBuild is a national nonprofit organization that assists disadvantaged youth 16 to 24 years of age. Participants build affordable housing for low-income families while earning a GED (high school equivalency diploma) or traditional diploma, and developing effective work skills. Each of the more than 200 YouthBuild affiliate programs across the United States is linked to the national YouthBuild USA, which supports local programs by providing technical assistance, training and professional development, and communications support. YouthBuild’s comprehensive approach includes alternative school, community service, job training, leadership development and civic engagement, counseling, and peer support groups.
The YouthBuild approach has been found effective both in protecting public safety and in developing youth. Cohen and Piquero (2008) analyzed data on nearly 400 youthful offenders who participated in YouthBuild. Post-program recidivism among YouthBuild participants was lower, and educational achievement higher, than the average outcome expected for similarly situated youth. Their analysis showed that each dollar spent on the YouthBuild Offender Project produced an estimated social return on investment ranging from $11 to $43. With the cost of service provision for each youth in the program estimated at $12,500, the total value of the return on investment was equivalent to a payout of $134,000 to $536,000 per young person.