Corps Network, YouthBuild Get Funds to Help Dropouts, Offenders

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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) awarded two $10 million competitive grants last month to two national youth-serving organizations to support training opportunities for high school dropouts and young adult offenders ages 18 to 24.

The winners are YouthBuild USA, based in Somerville, Mass., and the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Service and Conservation Corps, better known as The Corps Network.

The grants are from the DOL’s Grants Serving Young Adult Offenders and High School Dropouts in High-Poverty, High-Crime Communities.

“The purpose of these grants is to prepare these individuals for employment by increasing the rate at which participants enter post-secondary education and training, and equipping them with industry-recognized job training skills,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a prepared statement.

Both grantees will work with federal and state correctional agencies, local workforce investment boards and community-based service providers on what the DOL considers “proven” academic, employment and other re-entry strategies. Sub-grants will be made to the organization’s network members.

Judy Karasik, vice president for communications and development at The Corps Network, said the network will use its grant to implement its Civic Justice Corps model at six sites in two states. The program involves working with employers and justice agencies to reduce re-incarceration rates among offenders by providing service opportunities where youths learn job skills, as well as how to develop the attitudes and behavior necessary to succeed at work.

In a pilot version of the program, Karasik said, the program got re-incarceration rates down to 10 percent in areas where they were typically 50 percent to 70 percent.

“This will be more of a demonstration, so there will be much more fidelity to a specific program model so you can say: Evidence shows that if you have these partnerships with employers that have X-Y-Z in place, you’ll have re-incarceration rates very low,” Karasik said.

The Corps Network provides support to 143 service and conservation corps in 45 states and Washington, D.C. The membership organizations enroll more than 30,000 youth in service each year, the network says.

The other grantee, YouthBuild USA, provides support to a network of 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. The programs provide education and training in the construction field to 92,000 youths.

The awards use fiscal 2009 funds, the DOL said.

Contact: National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (202) 737-6272, http://www.nascc.org; YouthBuild USA (617) 623-9900, http://www.youthbuild.org.