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SCORE Awards: YouthBuild Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. ( MainStreet) -- It was a peculiar year for YouthBuild Louisville. Just as the aid program for jobless and undereducated young adults struggled to fulfill its role amid seemingly immutable unemployment figures, SCORE named it the Outstanding Nonprofit Organization.

The category was added this year, making YouthBuild Louisville the first recipient.

The nonprofit program is part of a national organization. More than 273 programs have been created in cities across the U.S. under YouthBuild USA. The first program was started in 1978 in Harlem, N.Y.

YouthBuild Louisville

Between 75% and 90% of YouthBuild's participants, all age 16 to 24, are high school dropouts; 61% are parents; and at least half have experience with the court system, according to Lynn Rippy, executive director of YouthBuild Louisville.

The program provides five primary components: education, job training programs, emphasis on the role of community service, social service and, finally, career development. Participants split their time between the classroom in which they get their GEDs and a job site, where they contribute to building affordable housing for low-income families and the homeless.

"Even though we are a nonprofit, we are a small business," Rippy says. "The primary way that we're like a small business is we have to make sure we bring enough money in to pay our bills. We run our program efficiently."

A primary goal for YouthBuild Louisville is learning how to become less dependent on federal funds, which are not guaranteed. One way is by building out a "product line" of gardening supplies and sheds. The organization also hopes to have a fully functioning restaurant one day from its vegetable garden.

"Our goal is to have at least 50% of earned income as part of the annual budget," she says. "We're at 36%, so we're heading that way. That was a large part of the SCORE application -- really explaining how we've gone from a nonprofit that really works from donations and grants and really looks more at entrepreneuralism in the way we develop programs and the way the program conceives the operations."

How did you get into this line of work?

Rippy: I worked for 35 years in these services. I worked first in the Park Department and realized we weren't doing enough for young people and after that opened the Office of Youth Services for the mayor's office. I developed a leadership program there. I really wanted to make sure that I could see the fruits of our work every day and realized that the program where I could see the most benefit would be a program where you work with one student at a time.

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