YouthBuild secures new funding

Published 7:55 am Friday, September 30, 2016

Thanks to a federal grant, YouthBuild Bogalusa will keep its doors open.

This week the local technical training and HiSET preparation program for youth announced it had received a grant for $921,893 from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The HiSET is the state’s high school equivalency program. Danielle Keys, the executive director of YouthBuild, said the grant constitutes the group’s entire operating budget. It is a competitive grant and she must apply every two years to see whether the program can continue.

“You have other YouthBuilds from around the world applying and just because you apply doesn’t mean you’ll get it,” Keys said. “In Louisiana, only two YouthBuilds got it, and it was us and Southern (University) in Shreveport. If we had lost it we would have had to close the doors and it’s a very vital program in the community.”

YouthBuild is open to anyone aged 16 to 24 who doesn’t have a high school diploma. However, Keys pointed out that the program teaches a variety of skills — not just what’s necessary to pass the HiSET.

“Most importantly we prepare them for their HiSET because these are students who have, for whatever reason, dropped out of high school, but they’re also able to earn an industry-based certification,” she said. “In addition to that, we teach them life skills like money management and basic things they may not have been taught.”

The program employs eight people and each 10-month period the program educates 28 to 30 students. The program has been operating in Bogalusa for 15 years, and Keys said she was happy to secure another two years.

“I’m just ecstatic,” she said. “Writing the grant is always stressful, but this is the reward.”

The programs are operated with colleges and universities and Bogalusa’s is operated under the auspices of Northshore Technical Community College.

College Chancellor Williams Wainwright praised the local program.

“The impact of YouthBuild Bogalusa is beyond measure. Funding from the United States Department of Labor is clearly correlated to the successful outcomes of a nationally recognized program,” he said, in a press release. “I want to commend our YouthBuild faculty and staff for their commitment to strengthening our community.”

For more information, call Keys at 985-732-6878.