YouthBuild program combines education with construction

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A new program in La Crosse will combine a high school education with building a house.

The YouthBuild program plans to target at-risk youth in a unique way to help them get back on track, but it will also help the community.

High school dropouts and credit deficient students can get paid to earn a GED through Western Technical College's YouthBuild program.

Participants will spend some time in the classroom to work on the degree, and the rest of the time, they'll work together to build a house in La Crosse.

"We're going to serve somewhere between 60 and 80 young people who may not be connected to the community in as positive a way as we wish," said Chad Dull, Dean of Learner Support and Transition. "And not only are they going to connect with our community and our college and our partner agencies, they're going to build something that when they're done they can point at and say, 'I did that.'"

A case manager will also help the students face challenges along the way.

"Aside from just being credit deficient or a dropout from school, they may have an incarcerated parent," said Greg Stanton, Case Manager for the program. "They may be a migrant youth, they may be in foster care or just about to age out of foster care. So any of those, they may be a part of juvenile justice services here in La Crosse."

Program organizers say the first house will be built on either Farnam or Clinton Street in La Crosse, in neighborhoods that the city has already started to revitalize.

For that reason, Western Technical College says the city will also benefit from the program.

"If you're a participant who's graduated from the program it's our mission to create some steady employment for you, to give you a post secondary education degree, so there's obvious benefits to that," said Quinn Walraven, Resource Development Specialist at Western. "But there's also the neighborhood revitalization portion that we're really contributing to, the service learning components that that students will be engaged in, leadership opportunities."

The program is set to start in March and it's still accepting applicants through Western's website.

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