Housing authority starts new program to help at-risk youth

News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — With all of the unrest that has surrounded central Illinois communities in the past few days, the Housing Authority of Champaign County is sharing information about positive work being done to help young people toward a successful future. ​

There’s a new program called YouthBuild that helps those at-risk ages 16-24 to get their diploma and guide them toward career placement. ​

HACC Executive Director David Northern says, “This is something that’s needed here in this community today and it’s been needed for a long time.” ​For many young people, school can be challenging, and in many cases, family support is limited. ​Often times minority and low-income youth face struggles others may not ever worry about. Northern says, “They may have been been incarcerated or not graduated from high school and are looking for different opportunities. YouthBuild is based on a pre-apprenticeship program. But we also apply to have other components like certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, it tech, so the young people can graduate and go into any field they want to or go to college.” ​

This program is designed to help people overcome obstacles and provide support. ​Northern says, “We’re guiding them in a different direction and in a different way. There’s so much unrest going on right now. The black community has traditionally dealt with systemic racism and it’s very challenging. We can help mentor these young people and show them a different direction.”​

17-year-old John Taylor joined the program recently after falling behind in high school credits. ​He says, “In high school I got off to a bad start because I was in alternative school. I want to get my license for construction and get my high school diploma.” ​This program is helping to kickstart his future. ​”It means a lot because I don’t get a lot of support where I come from so it’s pushing me more to get done what I need to get done.” ​

Northern says, along with career and character development, YouthBuild will also help support people beyond that. ​When they graduate from the program they will get a voucher for housing through HACC. ​

YouthBuild is paid for largely by a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Department of Labor. That money lasts for three years. ​Right now there are thirteen young people involved in the program. ​The goal is to have a total of 84 graduate from this in the next three years. 

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