More than 130 at-risk youths will have the opportunity to participate in alternative education programs in Lowell and Lawrence while mastering critical job skills, thanks to more than $2 million in grant funding from the US Department of Labor.
Community Teamwork in Lowell last week received a $1,067,145 grant for its YouthBuild of Greater Lowell program. YouthBuild Lawrence AmeriCorps, an affiliate of the Lawrence Family Development & Education Fund, received a $1.1 million grant, the largest amount to be awarded by the Department of Labor during this round of funding.
“We are thrilled to have qualified for Department of Labor funding based on the quality of our programming and the need in our community,” said Community Teamwork executive director Karen N. Frederick.
The Department of Labor funds 322 YouthBuild programs across the country. The latest round of funding awarded $74 million to 71 programs nationwide. The grants ranged from $700,000 to $1.1 million.
YouthBuild provides classes that lead to a high school or other state recognized diploma and industry recognized certifications in construction and other fields, including health care and information technology. Leadership are key components of YouthBuild. The goal is to help young people complete their education and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
“Community Teamwork’s YouthBuild Program provides hope for some of the most vulnerable young people in the Greater Lowell area,” Frederick said. “This funding not only supports critical education and vocational training, but, equally importantly, provides young people a place to belong and an opportunity to connect to their community in a new way.”
The federal grants will support the local programs for two years, according to a statement released by US Representative Niki Tsongas, who presented the checks to the Lowell and Lawrence YouthBuild groups.
“Since I came to Congress, I’ve advocated for funding for YouthBuild because I’ve seen firsthand how it provides opportunities for so many young people, giving them a second chance to succeed and to find a new sense of self,” Tsongas said in a statement emailed to the Globe.
YouthBuild is a community based alternative education program that provides classroom instruction and occupational skills training to youths ages 16 to 24 who have been in the juvenile justice system, are aging out of foster care, have dropped out of high school, or are otherwise at risk of failing to reach educational and career milestones.
“YouthBuild isn’t just about helping individuals; it’s about building a better community,” Tsongas said.
The Lawrence program, now in its 20th year, will include 68 participants over the next two years; the Lowell program will have 70, according to Michael Hartigan, a spokesman for Tsongas.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” said April Lyskowsky, program director for YouthBuild Lawrence. “With this funding, we’ll be able to continue to build capacity and continue our services in the community.”
According to Lyskowsky, there are 34 youths currently enrolled in the program who are expected to graduate in December. Over the years, YouthBuild Lawrence has helped about 400 young men and women who are committed to improving their lives, who “come to the program every day, no matter what challenges they may be facing,” she said.
Students in the Lawrence program are currently helping to build a single-family home on West Street. When completed, it will be sold to a low-income, first-time home buyer.