YouthBuild USA GED Program

Last Updated on May 16, 2024.

In the U.S., YouthBuild USA offers programs for youth who fell off the edges of our society and helps them earn their GED diplomas.

The YouthBuild program provides these young adults the opportunity to get back on track, transform their lives, return to adult responsibility, and contribute to their communities.

In the U.S., YouthBuild operates under the name YouthBuild USA, and across the world, the organization works under the name YouthBuild International.

In America, some 8,000 youth who quit high school without a diploma enroll full-time in one of the YouthBuild programs for a 10-month assignment every year.

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YouthBuild and the GED Diploma

At least 40 percent of their time is spent on hands-on training to build affordable housing in their communities while spending at least 50 percent of their time on classroom education to earn their GED diplomas.

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Currently, there are over 250 YouthBuild programs across the U.S. where YouthBuild’s staff work hard to boost leadership roles for these young people and help them earn their high school equivalency degrees.

There’s a strong focus on creating a safe environment and building a caring community of peers, mentors, educators, and other adults to boost their success.

Participants in the YouthBuild program will earn their high school equivalency credentials (GED) or high school degrees in a caring and individualized setting.

Professional Skills

They will learn professional job skills and earn a wage, stipend, or living & housing allowance while they’ll learn to build affordable and sustainable housing opportunities for low-income and homeless people, schools, community centers, or playgrounds in their respective communities.

YouthBuild participants will earn recognized professional certifications so they can be successful in not only construction, but some participants also train for employment in technology, healthcare, or customer service.

They can go on to continue their education in college, qualify for registered apprenticeships or post-program placements, or benefit from other post-secondary education or employment opportunities while being supported and guided by qualified mentors and transition coordinators.

Counseling Support

YouthBuild offers counseling support to solve participants’ personal problems, urgent housing needs or child care issues, and other problems related to, for example, record expungement.

YouthBuild participants will give back to their communities and give a good example by participating in various community service activities and being great advocates for their communities both on local, state, and national levels.

All the work YouthBuild participants do, takes place “on the ground” in all of YouthBuild’s more than 250 programs.

This nationwide operating, sustainable movement requires staff members to have special leadership qualities, and this is exactly what YouthBuild USA is providing.

In America, there are currently almost 5 million young adults in the age range of 16 to 24 who don’t have a job, don’t go to school, and don’t receive some sort of training.

Of all these young adults, estimates are that around 3 million are at risk, and these are exactly the people that YouthBuild’s programs are meant for.

All these youth are in dire need of support and pathways to jobs, education, entrepreneurship, or other opportunities, such as earning a GED that will give them a chance to become productive community members and possibly take on leadership roles.

YouthBuild provides those pathways and support. All across the globe, the organization unleashes the positive, thriving energy of low-income and at-risk youth to turn their lives around and rebuild their communities.

This will break the poverty cycle through a commitment to education, work, peers, community, and family.

YouthBuild USA, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that operates, as stated above, in the U.S. under the name YouthBuild USA and in other parts of the world as YouthBuild International, or YBI.

So for unemployed youth who quit high school prematurely and don’t hold a diploma, YouthBuild offers a great opportunity to both reclaim their education and acquire the skills needed to be successful in the job market.

YouthBuild’s History

The YouthBuild program started out in 1978 by Dorothy Stoneman in East Harlem. She led a team of young people who were eager to do something about their deteriorated communities.

Local teenagers and community members, together with Stoneman, set up the “Youth Action Program,” which is still in operation these days, to rebuild an abandoned East Harlem tenement building.

They started to take empty and abandoned buildings back from drug dealers, rebuild the houses, and eliminate crime and drug abuse in their neighborhoods.

This initiative was followed up in New York City through the support of tax breaks in the period 1984-88.

In 1990, Dorothy Stoneman established YouthBuild USA, Inc. to expand the agency into a nationwide operating organization.

By 1992, she had managed to set up already 20 local YouthBuild programs across 11 states that were all privately funded!

In 1992, legislators supported YouthBuild USA, and a bill was passed that authorized YouthBuild Inc. as a federal program to provide support under the rules and management of the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

In 2006, the U.S. Congress unanimously voted to transfer YouthBuild from the Department of Housing & Urban Development to the Department of Labor (DOL). Currently, YouthBuild operates under the 2014 Workforce Innovations & Opportunities Act.

Since 1992, the YouthBuild organization has worked successfully with four successive federal government administrations, hundreds of local governments and sponsoring organizations, and numerous private funders to guarantee the continuation and success of its operations.

Today, the organization operates a network in the United States of 252 community-based YouthBuild programs sponsored and managed by local public or non-profit entities. See also our review of Goodwill GED Programs in America.

So Much Support

As the YouthBuild project expanded, broad corporate and philanthropic support enabled the organization to enlarge its capacity to help local initiatives and add innovative educational program improvements to its activities.

Since 1988, for example, the Mott and Ford Foundations have continually supported YouthBuild every step of the way, and in 2007, Dorothy Stoneman received the prestigious Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur Award for her cutting-edge work.

More recently, support came from corporate foundations run by Hilton, Bank of America, Walmart,, JPMorgan Chase, Starbucks, Benjamin Moore, Prudential, and Saint-Gobain, just to mention a few.

All of these companies chose YouthBuild as an important partner to address the skills and education gaps that cause so many challenges to both employers and underserved youth and to improve the opportunities open to them.

YouthBuild USA manages, as said earlier, an impressive network of 252 rural and urban YouthBuild programs across 46 states. All these programs are managed and financially supported by local nonprofits, public agencies, and community colleges.

The primary funding source, however, is the Department of Labor through the federal YouthBuild program, which is administered by the Department’s Employment & Training Administration.


One of the challenges YouthBuild is faced with is the fact that for every individual they accept into a YouthBuild program, they have to turn away four or five others.

YouthBuild not only wants to help young people graduate with a high school or GED diploma but also to generate ethical young community leaders who are skilled, educated, and service-orientated.

The challenge is to turn their lives around and transform their futures so they can become contributing members of their communities in America and around the world. That’s what YouthBuild is all about!