Project YouthBuild is Getting a New Home

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Gainesville, FL – The Institute for Workforce Innovation’s Project YouthBuild AmeriCorps program will be moving into a new home in 2018 thanks to a collaborative agreement with the City of Gainesville and Gainesville Police Department (GPD). Project YouthBuild is an intensive 9-month educational, occupational and leadership program for young people ages 16 – 24 from low-income households and who have dropped out of school. Project YouthBuild participants have the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, multiple construction credentials, renovate affordable housing for families and veterans and learn leadership skills.

In 2007 GPD, using federal forfeiture funds, purchased the former offices of Dr. Cullen Banks, the first African American physician to have visitation privileges at Alachua General Hospital and a founding trustee of the North Florida Regional Medical Center. He shared the space, located at 635 NW 6th Street, with Dr. Edgar Allen Cosby, the first African American dentist to serve on the State of Florida Board of Dentistry. Together at the 6th Street location, for nearly 50 years, Drs. Cosby and Banks provided quality care to Gainesville residents.

After working with Project YouthBuild and seeing countless success stories, the partnership was forged and the idea was born to create the Dr. Banks & Dr. Cosby Youth Empowerment Center.

For nearly 10 years this local landmark sat vacant and in significant disrepair. Project YouthBuild students, alumni, and supporters are currently working side by side with local trades professionals to complete all renovations and construction in an effort to bring the historic building back to life. Oelrich Construction, Inc. is managing the project and has provided opportunities for current students and graduates to gain hands-on construction experience assisting with the renovations.

Project YouthBuild will partner with GPD’s BOLD (Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction) program at the new center. GPD Chief Tony Jones explained that combining resources from two different programs will result in great things for our youth. “We have to invest in our youth, period,” Jones said. “Our young people don’t get to choose the conditions they are raised in. It’s up to all of us to ensure everyone’s success.”

Jonathan Leslie, Project YouthBuild’s executive director, is also thrilled to see the partnership take shape. “We’re excited to partner with Chief Jones and his team at the Gainesville Police Department,” said Leslie. “This partnership will create outstanding opportunities for young people in our community for years to come.”

The center campus will house the entire Project YouthBuild program, complete with classrooms, computer labs, meeting space and kitchen. In addition, the campus will be home to a 1,700 square foot indoor/outdoor construction skills teaching lab made possible through the generous support of the Rotary Clubs of Gainesville Foundation. Project YouthBuild was the 2017 recipient of the Foundation’s Wild Game Feast Grant. This $70,000 award will provide a state- of- the art facility to serve area youth.

Total renovation and construction costs for the center campus project is $303,000.00 and Project YouthBuild has raised $217,000 to date. Project YouthBuild needs to raise $86,000 to complete this important project. To learn how you can support Project YouthBuild in its efforts, please visit or call 352.215.8157.

“All of us at Project YouthBuild are honored to help continue the legacy of Dr. Banks and Dr. Cosby through the creation of the Youth Empowerment Center,” said Leslie.


Jonathan Leslie



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