Community Development Support Association deserves congratulations for its YouthBuild program.

The local program is being recognized as a model for the 300 YouthBuild programs in the United States and abroad, due to its students’ high attainment rate of their high school diplomas.

YouthBuild is an education and training program that helps at-risk youth, ages 17 to 24, complete high school or state equivalency degree programs, earn industry-recognized credentials and complete a construction pre-apprenticeship while building housing for low-income or homeless individuals and families in the community.

CDSA’s YouthBuild program recently was touted in a joint statement by YouthBuild USA and Penn Foster, an online college and career training platform.

Rachel Harris, CDSA YouthBuild coordinator, said CDSA has been using Penn Foster’s flexible online curriculum since 2015 — through six YouthBuild classes — and the program has had significant impact on the students’ success.

Before using the Penn Foster curriculum, CDSA’s YouthBuild program saw 40% of its students earn their GED. Since partnering with Penn Foster, the rate has leaped to 80%.

That’s an impressive jump and one for which local YouthBuild leaders should be proud.

YouthBuild has proven to be a valuable tool in helping at-risk young people, thanks in large part to the work of Rachel Harris, CDSA YouthBuild coordinator, and Brandy Stewart, YouthBuild placement specialist at CDSA. Most of the credit, though, belongs to the students themselves. They have decided they want more in their lives, and they dedicate the time and effort to make it work.

Stewart and Harris both said YouthBuild is a path to success for at-risk high school drop-outs who are willing to put in the work. We agree.

Once again, we commend CDSA for having a created a program that has earned nationwide recognition.

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