Skoll Foundation


YouthBuild USA

Skoll Awardee(s): Dorothy Stoneman
Award Year: 2007
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity, Education

(Click here to print)

“If all – or even half—of the disconnected young people of America were reconnected to productive lifestyles, in one generation poverty could be drastically diminished, productivity and civic engagement dramatically increased, and prison costs and other costs of poverty significantly reduced. Millions of idle or alienated young adults could become providers for their families and positive resources for the economic and social development of their communities.”

Sub-Issues: Post-Secondary Education; Youth Job Skills

More than five million American young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are neither working nor in school. Gangs, drugs, murder, and hopelessness characterize many of these young lives.

The Skoll Awardee: Dorothy Stoneman joined the civil rights movement after graduating from Harvard University in 1964. She lived in Harlem for more than 20 years. As an educator, she noticed young men left behind, unemployed, and sent to prison in large numbers. As a community resident, she noticed boarded-up buildings and people without affordable, decent homes. She began YouthBuild to bring young people into productive engagement by constructing homes. She also led a movement to improve community conditions. First in Harlem, then throughout New York and nationwide with support from YouthBuild USA, the organization pioneered a program that reaches disconnected young adults — those with the most strikes against them, including those already engaged with the drug culture and criminal justice system. It offers them immediately productive roles in their communities, leadership training, education toward a diploma and skills that lead them to well-paying jobs.   At the time of the Award, there were 226 YouthBuild programs engaging 8,000 youth in 44 states, producing housing for 1,000 families annually. Half of the youth enrolled had permanently changed their lives. Six out of every 10 enrollees completed the program and 78 percent of those went on to college or above-minimum wage jobs.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:

  • Today there are 273 YouthBuild programs in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the US Virgin Islands, engaging approximately 10,000 young adults each year.
  • Retail and barista training programs have been added.
  • Research of outcomes for 800 graduates showed that 75 percent were in college or employed with wages averaging $10 per hour up to seven years after completing the program.
  • For those who have been in prison, the recidivism rate is under 10 percent.
  • The YouthBuild model has spread to 13 other countries.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.