Building Change

Students in France for Summer French Exchange Internship in King’s Vegetable Garden of Versailles.

Youthbuild And Partners Bring Hope And Help To Kids Across Our City

By Graham Pilotte

Education, leadership and job training are game-changers for youth across Louisville. For some low-income young people, a chance to learn can quickly become a chance to change their lives. It’s a scenario that Lynn Rippy, the president and CEO of YouthBuild Louisville, knows very well.

“For young people – especially young people who have grown up in severe poverty – it can be difficult for them to believe things can be better,” Rippy says. “But with the level of success and love they receive through us, they start trusting people differently and trusting their own abilities. Their ideas of the future are very different than what they had coming into the program.

“YouthBuild started in Harlem about 40 years ago as a result of a social worker seeing the same kids on the side of the street every day,” Rippy explains. “Everything started as a result of this woman wanting to make sure this group of young men reached their full potential. She worked with them to develop everything they needed in their lives to move forward.”

Today, YouthBuild is working in 240 sites across the United States and 21 other countries, helping low-income young people across the world meet significant life goals from graduating college to having careers.

“Our young people in Louisville have really strong potential for success in life,” Rippy says. “They’re ready for change. They want to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and provide leadership to their families.”

The organization helps young people establish their independence. “We make sure that kids don’t take their barriers with them, whether that’s housing, daycare, legal issues or food,” Rippy explains. With the help of YouthBuild, these students are setting their lives on track to achieve their long-term goals.

“For me, the secret sauce is the service,” Rippy explains. “Our kids give back 450 hours each year they’re in the program, which really grounds them to the community and helps them understand their responsibilities.” This work reaches into almost every neighborhood in Louisville and ranges from building wheelchair ramps to planting trees. Through the (Building Industry Association of Louisville) Charitable Foundation and Kosair Charities, YouthBuild students also build dream playhouses for kids in need across the city.

Bottom right: Blackacre Conservancy Nature Shelter Construction.

YouthBuild students also take on additional mentorship, career and family opportunities, and some even have the chance to study abroad. “We just took six young people and two adults to Versailles, France, to study in the King’s Garden there. And we were able to go into some of the lower-income neighborhoods in Paris and see how (they’re) similar to their own experiences,” Rippy says. “They have this international travel that’s so life-changing.”

With their futures in mind, YouthBuild Louisville offers two career tracks – construction and nursing – so kids can work toward certifications and build careers in those fields. “It’s the partnerships we have, like the one with the Building Industry Association of Louisville (BIA), that have allowed us to grow and serve more young people,” Rippy says.

“It’s incredible to be part of such an impactful organization that literally changes the lives of these students,” says Annie Fultz Dutton, a member of the YouthBuild board and vice president of government affairs at the BIA. “YouthBuild students get career and vocational training, and they’re actually the future workforce of our industry.”

To promote the organization, YouthBuild students will take part in working at Homearama 2018. While their work has been featured in previous years, this year’s event will allow guests to put faces to the organization’s name. “Board members, staff and graduates of the program will be out at the concession stand,” Dutton explains. “We’re hoping that by engaging YouthBuild in Homearama activities this year, the tens of thousands of people who come out to Homearama will not only see the latest trends and beautiful architecture, they’ll also leave with a better understanding of this incredible nonprofit.”

YouthBuild students woking on Kosair Playhouse construction.

While Dutton and the BIA are thrilled to see these young people change their lives, they also respect the intrinsic value of the work these YouthBuild students are learning to do. “We have a pretty severe workforce shortage in the construction industry, and programs like YouthBuild are very engaged in training the next generation of employees in the building and construction industries,” Dutton explains. “Most of these young people have really struggled, but once they get these real-world certifications, they can propel themselves to a life-sustaining career. That’s ultimately what we want for everyone in our community.

“It’s an incredible group that actually produces real results. Once you learn about them, you become a lifelong supporter of the work that Lynn and her team are doing down in Smoketown,” Dutton continues. “These young people enter the program, and just leave with an entirely different and better life.”

“One young man described us this year as ‘people who don’t have to love me; they just want to love me,’” Rippy recalls. “This is change. It’s completely turned around their ideas of the future, and it’s a result of us creating  family for them. They’re able to realize that through their own confidence, they’re able to succeed in the shop or the classroom and to believe that things can be better.” VT


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