Now that we had a dedicated facility and staff acclimated to YouthBuild it was time to take advantage of some of the opportunities that are only appropriate for or available to schools. In partnership with Associated Builders and Contractors of Central Ohio, we became authorized to issue vocational certifications under the auspices of the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which allows our students to earn nationally-recognized construction certifications. Later, we added the concurrent capacity to issue PACT certifications issued by The Homebuilders Institute
We discovered and adopted a teaching methodology called Quantum Learning, which recognizes the individuality of learning styles, carrying out annual training for students and staff in how to recognize and address the ways in which individual students best learn. Implicit in this methodology are eight Keys to Excellence that have become so ingrained in our culture that they are highlighted in large murals in our school’s Transformation Hall: 1) This is it; the time is now; 2) Speak with good purpose; 3) Ownership; 4) Flexibility; 5) Balance; 6) Commitment; 7) Values aligned with actions equals integrity; and 8) Failure leads to success.
In 2004, we became the first and only non-college ever to be awarded a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education’s (FIPSE) EC-US Cooperation Program in Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training. Over the next three years, twelve of our students participated in a six-week foreign exchange program in London, with an equal number of YouthBuilders from London coming on a similar exchange to Columbus. Visiting students on both sides of the Atlantic were provided a unique opportunity to learn about construction and cultural practices in a foreign country.
During the same year, we were selected to participate in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s National Schools Initiative, which is a continuing study of America’s secondary education system across its various facets undertaken for the purpose of increasing diploma attainment nationwide.
Three years later, we were selected for inclusion in the Gates Foundation’s ongoing Postsecondary Education (PSE) initiative, which is geared toward increasing the number of postsecondary credentials earned by low-income youth. This was a crucial development in our program’s evolution that has spawned a number of positive off shoots:
- YBCCS students can earn college credits for the NCCER construction certifications that they earn in high school under an articulation agreement with Columbus State Community College (CSCC). These credits can be used not only at CSCC, but at other area colleges as well through our membership in the Heart of Ohio Tech Prep Consortium.
- A review of YBCCS’ curriculum by CSCC professors was undertaken for the purpose of identifying changes that would lessen the developmental education divide between what is required to earn a high school diploma and what is needed in order to be ready for college.
- In 2009, we added a healthcare training track under which YBCCS students can earn State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA) certifications with college credits through training provided at YBCCS’ school facility as a satellite campus of CSCC. Students successfully completing the STNA program can then transition to higher-level healthcare-track college studies at CSCC while still enrolled at YBCCS.
- Establishment of an office at CSCC for YBCCS’ PSE Coordinator, and development of a YouthBuild Columbus graduate support fund that CSCC can use to provide resources (tutors, mentors, study aids, etc.), to assist YBCCS graduates to complete their college studies.
In 2007 we began a formal relationship with the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio, under which students of The Ohio State University volunteer their time working with YBCCS students to help them complete high school, make sound life choices, and explore career goals. Any YBCCS student wishing to be paired with a mentor is eligible to take part in the program. This effort has recently been bolstered by our receipt of an Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention mentoring program subgrant, which will provide financial support for mentoring services to adjudicated students.
Early in 2010, recognizing that more and more of our students lacked a supportive home environment (many were “Couch Surfing”, which is what they call staying with a series of friends for a night or two at a time), we developed the financial resources to establish a relationship with Rahab’s Hideaway, which offers supervised family-style supportive living arrangements. As a result, we became one of the first YouthBuild programs in the country to develop a functioning residential capacity.
Later that year, YBCCS was designated a Career Academy by the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corporation (COWIC). COWIC operates Central Ohio’s One-Stop Center, though which The U.S. Department of Labor, which took over the federal YouthBuild program in 2007, administers Workforce Investment activities. The Career Academy designation brings with it dedicated resources for our students’ exploration of career paths, including counseling, internships, and significant financial support for our graduates’ post-secondary studies.
During school year 2010-11, we began offering technology-track instruction that leads to Microsoft Office certification. Students earning this credential do so in addition to the construction or nursing certifications that they are required to earn in order to be awarded a YBCCS diploma.