Been thinking about a recent article in Crain's this week... According to it, Detroit area youth (ages 16-21) have a 30% unemployment rate -- the highest in the country for a metro area. The rate is even higher for youth in the city of Detroit itself which is estimated to have a youth unemployment rate of more than 60%. It is generally understood that exposing young people to employment early on has a positive impact on their lives in the long term. They will be more likely to earn higher incomes, access better jobs, and avoid incarceration. The key to it all seems to be helping youth make the connection between education and employment. Education begets employment and, in a way, independence. Help a child understand that basic principle and some may even choose to expand upon it. Ideally youth learn to harness an education so they can access opportunity in whatever form it may come in, in a form that interests and excites them. At Write-A-House we are kinda obsessed with the metaphor of the American Dream. We see a lot of cracks and fissures in its facade, but the foundation is still meaningful. Employment, education, and financial independence are all a part of that...same as home ownership. We think its important to revisit these themes and ideals in a way that critically investigates, as well as bolsters them.
So...in addition to turning authors into homeowners, our work with Young Detroit Builders is also a critical component of our take on things. This program pays its students a stipend allowing them to spend time on both general studies and earning a certificate in residential construction techniques. Its a unique hybrid of high school, vocational training, counseling, life skills, and on-the-job experience. Last week I got to spend some time with this year's cohort of students. I showed them around the 3 Write-A-House sites they will be working on once fundraising is complete. They were excited. They were engaged. They had questions. While I walked back to the van with them after our tour, two students were already planning the company they were going to start when they finished their certificate. They couldn't stop talking about how successful they were going to be. Because of their education, they were viewing the situation in their city as an opportunity.
Or as they put it, 'Detroit is a goldmine.'