On June 5th, 2012, CIRCLE staffers Dr. Peter Levine, Abby Kiesa, and new summer fellow Vanessa Williams were at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill to participate in and, in Levine’s case, speak on behalf of CIRCLE’s report on YouthBuild U.S.A. and the programs Leadership Program. This Congressional staff briefing on the research was convened by Representatives Robert Dold (R-IL) and John Lewis (D-GA).
Gathered were a diverse group of attendees—spanning staff for Congressional Representatives, other national organizations, and graduates of the program alike. The panel of four, including Jamie Turner and Jamiel Alexander, both YouthBuild alumni, Dr. Levine, and Dorothy Stoneman, CEO and Founder of the program, spoke on various aspects of YouthBuild’s work with youth, emphasizing how far-reaching it is, as well as the tremendous transformation their alumni have made since entering the program.
The purpose of this report and event was to talk about the impact of the leadership program after graduation. This revealed wild successes of the program’s alumni. Participation in YouthBuild U.S.A. is a transformative process for many youth. Taking youth aged 16-24 and enrolling them in holistic development-type programming, these young people not only graduate and become leaders in their respective communities, but they also become constructive citizens who believe, as Dr. Levine summarized, “important in [their] community; [their] community is important to [them.] That is how [they] build [their] premise for everything else.”
For example, Jamiel Alexander, a YouthBuild graduate, poignantly summarized how personal development within YouthBuild occurs. It begins with a focus on self, then community, followed by world. Highlighting the relationship between one individual and the world, Alexander reinforced the individual social responsibility that YouthBuild strives to drive home. Alexander spoke to an equally important point about how YouthBuild prepares their youth for times of adversity, proclaiming, “YouthBuild teaches you not just how to rise, but how to sustain.”
Although CIRCLE is an organization dedicated to producing facts and figures on measurable data outcomes, participants report that the “ripple effect” of each class of YouthBuild students is widespread, and therefore difficult to fully calculate. By equipping their alumni with the resilience to thrive during life’s most daunting obstacles, YouthBuild provides both physical and emotional support to all of its participants. The graduates’ responses on the uniqueness of YouthBuild made priceless qualitative data for CIRCLE to analyze.
The full report can be found here.
–Vanessa Williams (CIRCLE Research to Practice Fellow)