Back in 1994, Isles was rehabilitating old, vacant single family homes scattered across Trenton. Families that wanted to own their first home purchased these efficient, low-cost houses that helped stabilize families and communities.
But while we redeveloped homes, another challenge and opportunity arose: young people kept knocking on the door of our job sites, asking for work. Isles’ construction manager David Styner would hire and train the young people and found that even if they had solid construction skills, too often they lacked a high school diploma.
At the time, (and even up until today), nearly 40% of all freshman in Trenton High failed to graduate on time. As a result, Isles developed the Isles Youth Institute (IYI) to blend the academic, vocational, and life skills that many young people need and want to succeed. As they learn, they redevelop homes and parks in their communities, multiplying IYI benefits.
Today, IYI offers a caring, ‘tough love’ alternative training school for nearly 100 young people annually. Students learn to be more than workers–they are leaders against violence in their communities, participants in community and environmental work, and many go on to higher education.
Isles’ mission is to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities. IYI keeps us honest to that goal and grounded in bringing real opportunities to young high school kids that once chose to leave school.
P.S. Check out our January e-newsletter highlighting Isles Youth Institute here.