Isles Youth Institute

Building self-reliance through education, job training, and life skills

Isles Youth Institute (IYI) engages out of school youth that seek to take control of their own lives and improve their communities. They attain a high school equivalency diploma, job training, and life skills, which they use to solve challenges in their own neighborhoods. The IYI mission of “self-reliance through education” is furthered by opportunities for leadership development, financial and health education, service learning, and pathways to higher education.

Want to become an IYI student? Print out an application here.

Earn a High School Diploma

Interested in earning your diploma, receiving job training and internship opportunities, and much more? Isles Youth Institute (IYI) might be the place for you! IYI follows the YouthBuild model and is open to students ages 16 – 24.

Services include:

  • HSE/GED Classes
  • Construction Training
  • Job Development
  • YouthBuild
  • Leadership Development
  • Community Service Learning Opportunities
  • Evening Program
  • Mentoring
  • Case Management

Isles YouthBuild was created in 1995 to combat Trenton’s high dropout and low employment rates by preparing at-risk youth (ages 16-24) for work, higher education, and self-reliance.

YouthBuild equally values academics, life skills, and job training skills, offering:

  • Academic Instruction: Through Isles Youth Institute, Isles offers a non-traditional educational environment that seeks to bring positive change to those with a history of academic difficulties.
  • Vocational Training: YouthBuild provides vocational training in construction. Students complete at least one housing renovation in a targeted low-income neighborhood. After students complete the curriculum, they work to earn industry recognized, entry level certifications in various construction fields.
  • Case Management: All students have access to a full-time Case Manager who can refer social services to assist both students and their families. Case Managers also assist students with college applications, scholarship searches, and access to financial aid.
  • Job Development: Job readiness classes are offered to all students and include resume writing, financial literacy, interview techniques, appropriate dress, application practice, and the importance of timeliness and attendance. Additionally, YouthBuild offers job experience through shadowing opportunities, internships, and job placement opportunities.
  • Life Skills: Youth take life skills classes and are provided with learning opportunities, which include relationship building, public speaking, and networking.
  • Mentoring Program: The YouthBuild Mentoring Program matches students with caring adult mentors from the Trenton community. Mentors help their mentees prepare for college and the workforce and also engage in recreational and community service activities with their mentees.
  • Extended Evening Program: The EEP provides activities designed to keep youth off the streets between the high-risk hours of 3pm to 7pm and some weekends.  Activities include trips to the theatre; college tours; service learning and volunteer learning activities; fine art, etiquette, nutrition; recreational activities, and more. We provide you with a meal and transportation home after the program. When you’re a part of the Evening Program you get a better feel for your community, because you are now a part of the solution.
Extended Evening Program

IYI’s Extended Evening Program (EEP) provides wholesome educational and recreational activities to IYI students between the high-risk hours of 3:00PM to 7:00 PM. EEP offers students Life Skills training, recreation and cultural enrichment activities, and opportunities to participate in various service learning events. EEP participation was extended beyond IYI enrollment by opening the evening program to youth from other organizations exceeding the targeted goal of 100 unduplicated youth annually. Read more here.

Leadership Academy

Recognizing that our students are Trenton’s future, IYI created the Leadership Academy in 2016 to ensure students receive all of the necessary tools to live stable and productive lives. This year, students continued to participate in structured lessons focused on character, community and team development.  Students also presented various works of art at Bryant Park in NYC, served as panelists at the NJ Black Issues Convention, and started a coalition with all NJ YouthBuild organizations. Students also participated in the Trenton Youth Violence Prevention Board Symposium at The College of New Jersey. Over the past year, 22 students have successfully completed IYI’s Leadership Academy.

The Challenge

Twenty nine percent of young adults in Trenton do not have a high school diploma, and only 3.8% in this age group hold bachelor’s degrees. Low education levels make it difficult to attract employers that pay living wages.

According to the NJ Department of Education’s data for the 2016-2017 academic year, the high school drop-out rate in New Jersey was 1.1% compared to 6.1% in Trenton. Of all students graduating from high school in New Jersey 61.1% went on to college, 5.6% went to on to other types of professional schooling and 7% obtained full time employment. Comparatively, in Trenton, only 30% of all graduates have started a form of secondary education. In 2010, of 488 high school graduates in Trenton 331 were undecided about their future.

The combination of concentrated poverty, a declining level of educational achievement, and the lack of opportunity for gainful employment have given way to an atmosphere where Trenton youth who want to take steps to improve their lives face nearly insurmountable odds. At IYI, we offer an opportunity for young people to take control of their futures through a combination of academics, job training, and life skills.

Why Isles Youth Institute?

Isles Youth Institute (IYI) engages disconnected youth; many of whom have been involved with the juvenile justice system, some who have children, some who are homeless and others who have dropped out of traditional high schools, and helps them to work through life challenges while assisting them in meeting their educational and career goals. The IYI mission of “self-reliance through education” is accomplished through a multi-faceted approach to teaching which encourages leadership building at all levels and includes a primary focus on student achievement for placement in post-secondary education, advanced vocational training, or career oriented jobs.

The long range impact of providing these opportunities for ‘hard to employ’ and ‘at-risk’ youth is the development of individuals who will invest in their own futures and in the future of their community. Students and alumni are role models who recruit their younger family members and friends into the program. A future can be envisioned for Trenton where young adults, rather than fleeing to the suburbs, remain in the city, become successful, raise families and reinvest in their community. We will begin to see a sustainable future in Trenton by developing self-reliance in our youth.

2021 Snapshot

33 certifications were earned in CPR/First Aid, OSHA, and Pre-Apprentice Construction Training (PACT.)

25 youth participated in our Love, Peace and Joy summer enrichment program.

20 IYI students participated in our social-distanced Summer and Winter Commencement Ceremony.