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Kerry Joins YouthBuild for Green Homebuilding Day

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry Joins YouthBuild for Green Homebuilding Day

Kerry Helped Establish Group as National Organization

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined First Lady Michelle Obama and thousands on the National Mall today to celebrate YouthBuild AmeriCorps Green Homebuilding Service Day. YouthBuild is a program that provides critical job skills to at-risk youth by having participants build affordable housing. Today, the program is ushering in its next decade by taking an important leadership role in the greening of America. On the Mall, YouthBuild participants have framed an energy-efficient, affordable home that will ultimately be sent to Brownsville, Texas, for a family whose home was damaged by Hurricane Dolly.

YouthBuild was established as a national organization following a bill introduced by Senator Kerry. Today, there are more than 226 YouthBuild programs nationwide, including 11 in Massachusetts. Kerry, often referred to as the "YouthBuild Senator," recently secured $50 million for YouthBuild programs as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"YouthBuild is a win-win program," said Sen. Kerry. "It cleans up our hardest hit communities while providing thousands of young people with the education and job training they deserve. The YouthBuild kids are living proof that with hard work and a little help, being a productive citizen and a great worker is within reach for at-risk young people. I want to personally thank First Lady Michelle Obama for giving this program such a strong ally in the White House."

Senator Kerry's remarks as prepared for today's event are below:

A simple question can change history. The proof of that is the great work being done here by these inspiring young people. The question that led them here was this: "How would you improve your community if you had adult support?" Dorothy Stoneman asked that question 30 years ago. She asked it of a group of East Harlem teenagers. Their answer? "We'd rebuild the houses. We'd take empty buildings and eliminate crime."

They did just that. With just $200 and a lot of sweat and encouragement, they rebuilt a four-story abandoned tenement in East Harlem. And in the process, they changed history, their own as well as East Harlem's. Under Dorothy's leadership, the idea and the action behind those efforts gave rise to YouthBuild USA, a uniquely comprehensive community service program for at-risk youth that is celebrating its 30th anniversary here.

In those 30 years, with Dorothy at the helm, YouthBuild has expanded into 226 programs in 44 states. It has helped more than 84,000 low income young adults move forward with their lives into college or productive employment. And along the way, YouthBuild students have built some 18,000 units of affordable housing in 226 of America's poorest communities.

But the projects we see here today show that YouthBuild is about more than just affordable housing. YouthBuild is ushering in its next decade by taking an important leadership role in the greening of America. Here on the Mall, these young people have framed an energy-efficient, affordable home that will ultimately be sent to Brownsville, Texas, for a family whose home was damaged by Hurricane Dolly.

The home will serve as a model for 84 additional green homes in Brownsville. I hope my colleagues in the Congress will stop by and see for themselves how important YouthBuild is.

I have seen the difference YouthBuild can have in a life. I have seen it in Antonio Almeida from River Fall, Massachusetts. He started doing drugs at 11. He dropped out of school at 16. He was homeless. Then he got arrested for assault and battery. But at 17, he joined the YouthBuild program in Fall River. He earned his GED. He became a graduate assistant at YouthBuild. And now, at 20, he's begun his studies at Bristol Community College.

It is because of young people like Antonio that I have long supported YouthBuild. In 1992, I introduced the legislation that got the first federal appropriation for YouthBuild. Over the years, I've worked with a bipartisan group of senators to provide $820 million total to the program. This year, we appropriated $70 million to YouthBuild and got another $50 million in the economic stimulus bill. And now we're working to get the program another $170 million next year.

I consider it an honor to be called "the Senator from YouthBuild." Because there is no program that does a better job of helping young people escape poverty and gangs and drugs and dead-end jobs. But we need your help. When you visit the Capitol tomorrow, be sure to tell your representatives about all the things you're doing. And don't be shy. You've already done so much. But you know you can do even more.

It is fortunate that we have a strong ally in President Obama, whose support for YouthBuild was evident by First Lady Michelle Obama's visit with you earlier today. The first lady has traveled throughout this country. And she has seen firsthand the difference YouthBuild can make in the life of a community and in the life of a troubled and bewildered young adult.

She understands what it will mean to this country for the president to succeed in his efforts to expand YouthBuild from 8,000 students a year to 50,000 annually in 850 communities by the year 2016.

YouthBuild is built on success, and there are few programs that reflect more powerfully what it is the president was talking about when he spoke so often during his campaign of the audacity of hope and the power it can unleash.

YouthBuild has that kind of hope.

It changes lives. It changes communities. And now, in taking the lead in the construction of green affordable housing, it is changing the planet.

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