YouthBuild Columbus Community School
With the turn of the millennium, the State of Ohio began allowing the creation and operation of charter schools, which are public schools operated by private entities. Because a high school diploma is a more valuable credential for our participants than a GED, we decided to transition to a diploma-track YouthBuild program that incorporates a charter school (which in Ohio is called a community school).
Another benefit of the decision to incorporate a public school into the YouthBuild Columbus program was that we would receive dedicated per-pupil funding provided by the Ohio Department of Education. This would make us less reliant on the ever-more competitive federal YouthBuild grants. It would also allow us to offer programming and access resources that are only available to public schools.
With those thoughts in mind, we formed the YouthBuild Columbus Community School, were awarded a charter by the Ohio Department of Education, hired qualified school staff, and began operations in 2001, based in the old Garfield School that is part of Columbus’ Martin Luther King Jr. Center.
Making this transition was not like flipping a light switch. There is a philosophical underpinning to YouthBuild programming that is foreign to the traditional education system. Put simply, YouthBuild greets its students with respect and acceptance, but makes it clear that it is up to each student’s actions from that point on to determine if that respect increases or decreases. In short, YouthBuild teaches that taking responsibility equals leadership. We needed to maintain that philosophical grounding by ensuring that we were a YouthBuild program that was operating a charter school, not a charter school that was operating a YouthBuild program.
This is a difficult task when you are required to staff your school with certified teachers who have learned their trade in traditional public schools instead of YouthBuild. As a result, our first few years were rocky ones as we learned to merge conflicting educational philosophies and to satisfy multiple funders who define success differently. Aiding in this task was the fact that before our second school year, with the support of The Ohio School Facilities Commission and The Columbus Compact Corporation we purchased and retrofitted into a school building an old factory located at 1183 Essex Avenue, Columbus.
As a result, we had our own home that was available to us 24/7/365, a place where we could mold our program into something that would satisfy both our funders and ourselves. This effort really came to fruition when in 2009-10, the YouthBuild Community School became one of the few dropout recovery schools in the State of Ohio ever to earn an “Effective” rating on its Ohio Department of Education School report card.