YouthBuild Charter School of California (YCSC) holds a unique place in the landscape of California’s public charter schools. As a competency-based dropout recovery school, it seeks to provide a high school education that leads to a diploma for a distinct group of students. YCSC students, who are all between the ages of 16 to 24 years old, come from low-income families and underserved communities, and have previously left or been pushed out of the traditional school system without a diploma. They enroll at YouthBuild programs over-aged, under-credited, or both, in order to receive vocational training, counseling, leadership development and an education.
YCSC was founded by Phil Matero based on his strong belief that all young people, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to a quality education that would prepare them to counter social inequalities and realize their full potential. The School, which is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and authorized by the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, was launched by and continues to be supported by the national organization YouthBuild USA in response to California YouthBuild programs’ need for a robust high school diploma based education option for their students (as opposed to the traditional GED route taken by many YouthBuild programs.)
YCSC first opened its doors in September of 2008 to 265 students at three YouthBuild program sites in Los Angeles County. At the end of the school year, 57 students graduated. By 2010, YouthBuild Charter School of California had expanded to incorporate YouthBuild programs outside of Los Angeles, to a total of eleven school sites across Los Angeles, Fresno, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and graduating 380 students at the end of the school year. Now entering its tenth year, YCSC has twenty school sites with over 1,000 students enrolled. Over 4,000 young people have graduated from YouthBuild Charter School of California since the school’s opening. YouthBuild Charter School continues to grow as a response to the drop-out, push-out epidemic in large urban areas and where traditional public schools are failing the youth of the community.
Authentic Education Through Community Action
In order to meet the unique needs of its students, YouthBuild Charter School of California uses a project-based, inter-disciplinary curriculum model that relies on authentic assessments and applied learning. Students are empowered to take what they learn in the classroom into their communities to promote social justice through volunteerism and advocacy. At the end of each trimester, YCSC students work together with teachers to create a culminating community action project. These projects have included a Health Fair in Lennox, adding fresh food options to a liquor store in East Los Angeles, and a Town Hall event in Boyle Heights calling for an end to sheriff violence in L.A. County jails.
Unlike traditional schools that employ standardized curriculum and classroom practices that often disempower and alienate marginalized students, YCSC’s project-based approach allows young adults to take ownership of their education. In addition to providing a rigorous education, YCSC partners with local community-based organizations to provide students with counseling services, college preparation, leadership development, vocational training, and the unique opportunity to revitalize their communities while earning school credit by building low-income housing.
Our mission is to cultivate collaborative learning communities in which every student has the right to an authentic education, plays a meaningful role in creating positive social change, and becomes an active participant in working towards just conditions for all.
Our vision is that all young people, regardless of their circumstances, have access to an education that will prepare them to counter social inequities and realize their full potential. Our school empowers young people to transform themselves and become leaders in their communities. Our school is a haven of trust and respect, where students can prepare for success in careers, post-secondary education and life.