Cussins going to D.C. to represent YouthBuild

ELKINS – On Thursday, Salena Cussins from YouthBuild North Central will be in Washington, D.C., meeting with elected officials. They are being joined by more than 100 fellow students from YouthBuild programs across the country to advocate for increased federal dollars to support the U.S. Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program.

YouthBuild programs have proven to be truly effective in reconnecting low-income young people ages 16 to 24, all without a high school diploma, to education and employment.

YouthBuild North Central is one of 264 YouthBuild programs in the U.S. where young people like Salena are working toward their TASC (formerly GED) while simultaneously receiving job training and earning a living allowance as they help build affordable housing in their communities. Tremendous emphasis is also placed on preparation for careers and/or postsecondary education, leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each other’s success.

It’s important to note that nearly half of all 16-19 year olds who are low-income, out-of-work and/or out-of-school in the United States reside in rural and mixed-rural counties – a rate 8 to 37 percent higher in the rural counties than in the country in general. Through YouthBuild and programs like YouthBuild North Central rural communities are engaging these disconnected young people, ages 16 to 24, who are looking to continue their education, find meaningful work, and help rebuild their communities.

YouthBuild is the only national community-based youth development program focused on low-income young people who have left high school without a diploma, offering an equal emphasis on education and job training in which the students build valuable assets for their communities, internalizing the ethic of service while gaining the academic and job skills they need to take responsibility for themselves and their families.

And that’s why this trip is so important to Salena. Last year Salena was experiencing several difficulties at learning in a traditional classroom setting.

“High school was full of distractions and that made learning hard,” she said, noting that she saw one of YouthBuild North Central’s fliers and was intrigued at the possibility of being able to earn her GED in a non-traditional classroom while being able to work with her hands building houses.

Selena was enrolled in YouthBuild five months ago and since then she has earned her GED, became OSHA 10 and CPR/First Aid certified, as well as completing an online course in human anatomy and physiology. Salena has a strong interest in being a radiologist technician and has been able to volunteer within this department at Davis Memorial Hospital, gaining first-hand knowledge and experience of what this type of career requires.

“In the next year I am planning on enrolling in Pierpont University to study radiology,” she said.

While in D.C. on April 3 – National YouthBuild Day – Salena and fellow YouthBuilders will be asking their elected officials, specifically senators, to sign on to a letter that is now being circulated. The letter asks for an increase to $102.5M in the 2015 Department of Labor federal YouthBuild appropriation, thus returning the program to its FY 2010 funding level.

All local non-profit and public entities are eligible to apply for funds from the US Department of Labor on a competitive basis under this appropriation to bring YouthBuild to their communities. At this level, 25 additional rural and urban communities will be able to offer this outstanding opportunity to disconnected youth seeking a chance to rebuild their communities and their lives.

The steering committee for the National Rural Assembly has also sent a letter of support to the Office of Management and Budget recommending an increase to $130 million in the 2015 DOL appropriation.

YouthBuild was started in 1978 in East Harlem as a social innovation designed to solve the challenges facing low-income young people who had left high school without a diploma. It was scaled up in New York City, and then nationally, and was then authorized in 1992 as a federal program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was transferred by unanimous consent of Congress to the U.S. Department of Labor in 2006.

Since 1992, more than 120,000 of America’s most economically disadvantaged young adults, more than 90 percent of whom had left high school without a diploma, have participated in YouthBuild. These 120,000 young people have built over 22,000 unit of affordable housing. Most of them have also dramatically changed their own lives. Learn more at

Since 1995 YouthBuild North Central has assisted our communities’ youth in building the foundation for their future. Trainees participate in a six-to-nine month program where they focus on skill development and prepare for the TASC (formerly GED) in a non-traditional classroom setting while also learning a trade in the construction and healthcare fields. Learn more at

For more information, call 304-637-9008 or send email to