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SA YouthBuild students advocate for funding at Texas State Capitol

Students with the SA YouthBuild program traveled to Austin on Thursday to share the importance of funding for their program. 

The group, made up of 10 students, loaded into a van around 8 a.m., bound for the capitol. There, they spoke with state legislators about what the program means to them, how it's changed their lives and why funding from the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., is so crucial. 

SA YouthBuild gives students ages 16-24 who have dropped out a second chance at a future. The program includes education opportunities, but also work and a stipend. They are assigned to a construction site, where they build a home for a family in need. 

Kristen Garcia was out of school for four years before joining SA YouthBuild.

"For people like me, I couldn't really afford my GED and this is a free program," she said. "Where can you get that? You're going to actually have to pay if you drop out and wait too long."

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Upon completion, students earn a slew of certifications that will help in job placement, such as NCCER and OSHA certification, AED, first aid and CPR training. 

Chief of Young Adult Programming Officer Michelle Hutchinson said these certificates would not be free for students without the grants provided by the Department of Labor. 

Funding also affects how many students are accepted to the program. According to data provided by SA Youth, for every student it accepts, three to four are turned away. 

Hutchinson said this is the first time the San Antonio chapter has taken a trip to speak to lawmakers on the subject.

SA Youth, home to the local YouthBuild program, is a nonprofit organization that works to keep low-income students in school and give those who have quit school an opportunity at a future. 

According to its website, YouthBuild was founded in 1978 in Harlem, New York. To date, there are 260 YouthBuild programs in 44 states and Washington, D.C.