Federal grant will help at-risk youths get ready to work

FORT WORTH -- The Community Learning Center in Fort Worth, a private nonprofit organization that provides training and employment services, was awarded a $1.1 million Labor Department grant Wednesday to help at-risk teens and young adults learn construction skills while earning their high school or General Educational Development diploma.

The group was among 74 programs nationwide to receive grants ranging from $700,000 to $1.1 million and totaling $75.7 million to fund YouthBuild programs, which are designed to help those ages 16 to 24.

The grants will help 65 young people locally and 5,000 nationwide.

Kathy Daniel, program development coordinator at the Community Learning Center, said this is the agency's first YouthBuild grant from the Labor Department.

"We're real excited," Daniel said. "YouthBuild has been around since the '70s, but there hasn't been one in the Fort Worth area, through the Department of Labor, in quite a while."

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced the grants in Pawtucket, R.I. She said the program will give some young adults a second chance.

Participants will include high school dropouts and others who have been in the juvenile justice system or are aging out of foster care. The Labor Department said it now funds 127 YouthBuild programs.

"The economic recession has been hard on our youth," Solis said.

The Community Learning Center, founded in 2000, helps veterans, at-risk youths, youth offenders, dislocated workers and people with disabilities to learn skills and find work.

The young adults will spend half their time earning a diploma and the other half learning occupational skills.