SCHENECTADY — Levi Brockway was adrift, hanging with the wrong crowd and fighting addiction.
After several run-ins with the law, he knew it was time to change.
Brockway ultimately found stability in a career-training program and now works at Schenectady-based Appolo Heating.
“My next goal is to own a house and be a productive member of society,” Brockway said.
But the YouthBuild program, which serves at-risk youths between the ages of 16 to 24 by helping develop trade skills and facilitate employment opportunities, stands to lose $1.1 million in federal funding, or about 6 percent of its total funding stream, as part of the Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the cuts “horribly misguided” during a visit to Schenectady on Monday.
“If the bureaucrat who made the cutting came here and saw what I saw, we wouldn’t even have to fight to get the program’s funding restored,” Schumer said. “Federal money attracts other money, so it’s much more than that.”
Those cuts would result in fewer people being trained at Schenectady’s Social Enterprise and Training (SEAT) Center.
“Federal funds are what keeps YouthBuild alive in our community,” said Jennifer Lawrence, the program’s executive director.
Advocates contend the program is already underfunded even without the threat of pending cuts.
Congress and the Trump administration allocated $89 million in the 2019 federal budget. But that only funded 40 percent of the eligible project applications it received, according to Schumer’s office.
“I’m going to do everything I can to see they get an increase,” Schumer said.
Officials said YouthBuild is precisely the type of program the federal government should be investing in to promote downtown revitalization and economic development while helping young people.
“What you’re seeing here today is the payoff and the return that occurs from investments that are made not only in communities and neighborhoods, but really in individuals where you see the transformation that occurs within these younger people,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy.
YouthBuild has served 500 at-risk young adults in Schenectady, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Scotia since its inception.
A second program serving Troy is operated by the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) for the Greater Capital Region.
Eighty-six percent of graduates find employment through the program, Schumer said, and 82 percent continue to be employed after one year.
For many at-risk youths, the nine-month program may be the last resort, Lawrence said.
Facilitating the training is also a way to give back to the community, said business officials.
“We couldn’t be more proud with the association we have with the SEAT center,” said Kelly Lucas of Appolo. “It’s just so wonderful to have [Levi] as part of our staff,” she said.
Students also gain experience in emergency medical technology and culinary services.
Additional local employers who participate in the program include Precision Valve, Mohawk Ambulance, Mallozzi’s Restaurants and Catering, Rivers Casino & Resort and Golub Corporation, among others.
Schenectady YouthBuild participants also recently completed work on an affordable housing complex and currently are working on a house on Prospect Street.
Reach Gazette reporter Pete DeMola at 518-395-3113, [email protected] or @pmdemola on Twitter.