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Schumer Pledges To Fight For YouthBuild Programs

Jesse King
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke with Schenectady YouthBuild leaders and participants while visiting the city's SEAT Center Monday.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is pledging to reverse federal cuts to YouthBuild career-training programs.

The New York Democrat says YouthBuild helps at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 develop the connections and skills needed to find employment. Schumer met with program participants of Schenectady YouthBuild at the city’s SEAT Center Monday, and says President Trump’s budget proposal cuts YouthBuild funding by 6 percent, or $5 million.

“My guess is if the bureaucrat who made the cutting came here and just saw what I saw, we wouldn’t even have to fight to get the program’s funding restored," says Schumer. 

Schenectady YouthBuild is part of a national model with 274 locations across the country. Together with the Center for Economic Opportunity’s YouthBuild effort in Troy, the program has served more than 1,000 students in the Capital Region. As part of the nine-month course, students not only develop trade skills in construction, Emergency Technician Training, and culinary arts, but they also work on their social skills. With business partners such as Appolo Heating, Schenectady YouthBuild Executive Director Jennifer Lawrence says 86 percent of its students find employment upon graduation.

“What I hear every day from young people – these programs are their last opportunity, what it feels like. And there are not other programs that are holistic and comprehensive," Lawrence notes. "So there is this model that says ‘We are going to embrace you as a young person, and once we accept you in this program we’re not going to leave you.’”

Jesse King
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer meets with participants of Schenectady YouthBuild.

Levi Brockway has been working at Appolo Heating for the past three months after graduating from Schenectady YouthBuild. After struggling with addiction, he says the program was essential to turning his life around.

“I just knew I needed to change. I didn’t like what I was becoming, I was very unhappy. My drug court counselor told me about YouthBuild, I thought it was good – they had some good core bases being ownership, responsibility," says Brockway. "Just right now I’m working in retro-fit, I’m still learning about the career. My next goal is just to hopefully own a house and be a good member of society.”

Schumer says YouthBuild is vital because its programs also support local businesses and communities. Schenectady YouthBuild’s students often fill vacancies at Appolo Heating, Precision Valve and Automation, and Mallozi's Restaurants. Recently students in the program built a new affordable housing unit in the city. Schumer says the program simultaneously fights worker shortages and unemployment.  

“And so to take a young person and not put them in a productive job and give them the skills so they can work at it – it’s simply not American anymore," he notes. "People don’t want to just be given handouts. They want to earn a salary, they want to have a pride in work.”

The Schenectady and Troy programs are utilizing a $1.1 million grant issued in February by the Department of Labor, but Lawrence, of Schenectady YouthBuild, says the six percent budget cut could drastically affect the groups going forward.

“Our federal funds let us attract like, double the amount of funds – but it wouldn’t happen without that federal base," Lawrence explains. "Out of the 19 programs in New York state, 16 are going to be applying for funding this cycle. And we know historically only four to seven programs get funded in New York state at one given time.”

During his visit, Senator Schumer pledged to fight for the program.

"I’m going to do everything I can do restore this funding, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar I’ll be able to come here this fall and say you’re gonna get the same or even more funding as you got last year," he pledged.  

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