Kissimmee, FL – Young adults who haven’t completed high school or earned a GED can now study for their high school diploma while also learning skills in fields such as construction and warehouse logistics that can help them find a job immediately upon graduation, thanks to a grant-funded program at Valencia College’s Osceola Campus.
Valencia’s YouthBuild program targets high-school dropouts or those who could not earn their high school diploma and who live in the following zip codes: 34743, 34744, 34741 or 34746.
Modeled on a program founded in East Harlem in 1978, YouthBuild now has programs across the country and helps about 10,000 students each year. Valencia’s YouthBuild program, which was launched in July 2017, was funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The college recently received a new three-year, $1.5 million grant to continue the program through 2024.
“The goal of the YouthBuild program is not only to help students earn a high-school diploma, but it’s to help them find full-time jobs that pay more than minimum wage,” says Bridget Valle, the YouthBuild grant project director. “That’s why there’s such an emphasis on teaching students marketable skills – because, with the kind of credentials they’re leaving with, they’ll be able to walk onto a job site and earn more than minimum wage.”
Many of the students enroll in the program because they couldn’t pass state-mandated FCAT tests required to earn a high school diploma in Florida. But thanks to tutoring, coursework and practice tests, more than 90 percent of the students enrolled in Valencia’s YouthBuild program have earned a diploma.
The classes are held at Valencia’s Osceola Campus in Kissimmee, where YouthBuild students divide their time between studying for the GED tests and skills classes taught by instructors in Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training programs. Students can select from three skills tracks: construction, warehouse logistics, and certified medical administrative assistant. In addition to earning their GEDs, they also earn industry certifications in those skills areas, making them marketable to future employers.
During the construction classes, students work on projects – such as bookshelves, tables and chairs — that will be donated to local non-profits. The program also partners with the Osceola Council on Aging’s “Helping Homebound Heroes” program, in which construction students work on home renovations for elderly veterans in Osceola County.
Interested students can apply by attending an orientation session. All information on upcoming information sessions can be found on Instagram @YouthBuildOsceola, or at www.valenciacollege.edu/youthbuild
To be eligible, students must be between the ages of 17-24, meet income guidelines, must be in need of a high school diploma or GED, and must be legally authorized to work in the United States. YouthBuild participants must also live in one of the following zip codes in the Kissimmee area: zip codes 34743, 34744, 34741 or 34746.