This spring, Burlington Stores collected $1.4 million from its customers and associates to benefit YouthBuild USA’s programs across the country. Change Inc. has received a portion of this funding in the form of the $16,000 Network Engagement Impact and Innovation grant for our YouthBuild program at GAP School. With this grant, GAP School is re-establishing ties with justice-involved youth in Ramsey County. This funding from Burlington Stores has provided an opportunity to rekindle our work with young individuals who have faced the justice system.
GAP School was once a destination school for young people returning to the community from corrections as well as a diversion placement for adjudicated youth to avoid out-of-home placement. While we have more recently placed our focus on refugee and immigrant communities, GAP School's renewed commitment to re-engage with justice-involved youth will again become a priority.
After Ramsey County made changes to their juvenile justice program over the past 20 years, contact with many justice-involved youth was lost after engagement with the system. Now, with the help of Change Inc. staff who have built relationships with people in the justice system and community, GAP School aims to serve as the re-entry team solution for these youth. This initiative is a powerful example of how dedicated community members and organizations can work together to create positive change. Current connections with Ramsey County include Power Within Us, Ramsey County Carjacking and Auto Theft (CAT) Unit, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Community Navigators, and Ramsey County Parole Officers.
Change Inc.'s Director of Community Solutions, Corey Byrd, will lead the team to ensure robust support systems and services are in place so justice-involved young people succeed in school and, more specifically, in GAP School’s YouthBuild program. The program development focused on recruitment and retention will also include the addition of substance use disorder and housing services.
The grant funding from Burlington Stores will serve as a catalyst to renew the recruitment and retention efforts of justice-involved youth at GAP School. While it represents a significant step forward, sustaining this work will require additional funding in the future. The ultimate goal is to enroll 10 justice-involved youth at GAP School, providing them with mentoring, therapy, credit recovery services, and the support they need to succeed.