Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending YouthBuild's 40th Anniversary Celebration & Gala in New York City. The event brought together YouthBuild leaders, program graduates, ardent supporters, and partners like Penn Foster to celebrate YouthBuild's rich history and bright future.

Throughout the years Penn Foster has been partnering with YouthBuild, we've witnessed the program's tremendous impact on the lives of today's youth. Every organization " every movement " has a beating heart at its center. And, at the center of YouthBuild, responsible for its vision and dedication to the ideal that every American youth has potential and deserves an opportunity, is Dorothy Stoneman.

Dorothy launched YouthBuild, originally known as Youth Action, in East Harlem in 1978 to help teenagers rebuild their community and lives. Since then, Dorothy has been a driving force behind a social-purpose organization dedicated to unleashing the intelligence and positive energy of young people around the world. YouthBuild has expanded to 260 programs in the United States and 100 programs internationally, helping young people between the ages of 16-24 work towards their high school equivalency credential or diploma, and learn the career skills to help them find a job in an in-demand field. 

The Gala also celebrated YouthBuild's newest chapter, beginning when John Valverde came on as the CEO nearly two years ago. John embodies the values that make YouthBuild such a remarkable organization. He is a strong, passionate leader, and has done a wonderful job of guiding YouthBuild into the future.

John addressed the Gala attendees and shared bits of his personal story, which is a testament to the power of opportunity and second chances. John, a first-generation American, was incarcerated as a young man. While incarcerated, he made the decision to dedicate his life to helping others. He took advantage of the educational opportunities offered to him and ultimately earned two college degrees while imprisoned. John is now the leader of a global non-profit dedicated to unleashing the potential of those who just need the opportunity. I urge you to listen to John's story, in his own words, as the keynote speaker of Penn Foster's graduation ceremony earlier this year.

The YouthBuild program model worked in the past, it works in the present, and is well positioned to thrive in the future. I left the event feeling grateful to be a part of it, inspired to continue to build our educational partnership with YouthBuild, and committed to helping young people develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to make a positive impact on the world.

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