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$1.1M BCC Grant Builds Job Skills of At-Risk Youth

By Mackenzie Ryan
Florida Today

Brevard Community College

A Brevard Community College program that helps at-risk youth earn a high school diploma or GED, as well as develop job skills, will continue thanks to a $1.1 million grant announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The community-based, alternative education program YouthBuild serves at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 through classroom instruction and construction-skills training. Across the nation, many participants have been in the juvenile justice system, are aging out of foster care or have dropped out of high school.

"It's a transformational program. It allows young people to see their potential and then follow through," said Cosanne Mistretta, BCC's YouthBuild director. "It changes lives."

BCC's program expects to enroll 65 students during the three years of the grant. Based at the Cocoa campus, the program takes between six months and a year to complete, and students learn construction skills while working at Habitat for Humanity sites.

A new "bridge" component to the program will better prepare and transition students to college courses if they choose to enroll after earning a diploma or GED. Alternatively, students receive help finding work.

"It's a lifesaver for the program," BCC Spokesman John Glisch said of winning the grant. The program does not receive state or local money.

More than $75 million worth of YouthBuild grants were announced Wednesday for 74 locations across the country. In addition to construction, some programs will train students for careers in health care, information technology and other fast-growing fields.

"YouthBuild offers young people the opportunity to earn academic and industry-recognized credentials, practice the skills they'll need to succeed at work, and experience what it means to contribute to their own success and that of their communities," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a news release.

The grants, awarded to organizations in 28 states and the District of Columbia, are expected to help nearly 5,000 youth obtain certification and skills to obtain self-sufficiency. All told, the Labor Department now funds 127 YouthBuild programs across the country.

Three other organizations in Florida also received YouthBuild grants of about $1.1 million each: Florida Institute for Workforce Innovation Inc. in Gainesville, the Greater Miami Service Corps and the Housing Authority of the City of Tampa.