YouthBuild announcement | photo by Melissa Chipman

YouthBuild announcement | Photo by Melissa Chipman

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth announced today that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $1.1 million to Louisville’s YouthBuild program to serve more than 70 young people throughout a 30-month program. More than 70 other programs across the U.S. received grants ranging from $700,000 to $1.1 million; this means Louisville was funded at the highest level.

Yarmuth said the grant “speaks volumes about the success of this program.”

YouthBuild is an alternative education program that serves young people who have dropped out of school, been in the justice system or are otherwise at risk of not reaching career readiness. Students learn trade skills, predominantly construction, while also preparing to take their GED and receiving counseling services. YouthBuild also does a significant amount of community service.

In introducing the mayor at today’s press conference, Yarmuth said, “No one has done more to generate pride in this city than Mayor Fischer.”

Fischer said the success of the program was that it set high expectations for people who probably hadn’t previously encountered high expectations.

He lauded the grant and said, “This is the federal government saying ‘We believe in you.'”

The mayor introduced Lynn Rippy, executive director of YouthBuild, saying, “Lynn has a heart that’s as big as the city of Louisville.”

Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy cited YouthBuild’s recent community service, including work on Muhammad Ali’s childhood home and Hogan’s Fountain in Cherokee Park, and building raised beds for community gardens. He said the students show “how to be active citizens, not just residents.”

YouthBuild graduate Cheyenne Orbia spoke passionately about the program. She’s a 23-year-old who is the mother of three. She had unstable housing throughout her school years, a fact that “blurred her path to success.”

Since joining the program, she’s gotten her GED, learned motorcycle mechanics, learned CPR, become a citizen forester, and studied abroad in Paris twice.

Orbia now works in building at the Sheppard Square housing complex and will be transitioning to the Ohio River Bridges Project while learning welding. She has a stable home and says she no longer is afraid that her children won’t be proud of her.