YouthBuild USA is perhaps the least known and most successful youth intervention, education and support organization in the U.S. It has touched hundreds of thousands of lives since its founder Dorothy Stoneman, a Skoll Foundation awarded social entrepreneur, began a program to teach and employ at-risk youth in Harlem to rebuild abandoned apartment buildings and provide housing for the homeless in 1978. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16 to 24 work full-time for 6 to 24 months toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities. Emphasis is placed on leadership development, community service, and the creation of a positive mini-community of adults and youth committed to each others’ success. The mission of YouthBuild USA is to unleash the intelligence and positive energy of low-income youth to rebuild their communities and their lives.
The Stories of Change partnership connected Stoneman and filmmaker Annie Sundberg to explore ways to tell their story. The 2010 short film Youth Build was supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and plans are in the works for a new Sundance-funded series of twelve short films that trace the transformative moments in YouthBuild’s history.