AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students in the Austin area will get another chance at a successful career thanks to a new grant. American Youthworks secured $1 million from the US Department of Labor. 

It’ll allow hundreds of students to earn their high school dipolomas and land the jobs our city needs. 

“I see a path for me, I know what I want to do in the future,” said Victoria Chisolm, a student in American Youthworks’ Youthbuild program 

The 18-year-old is a lot like others. Confused and overwhelmed, Chisolm decided she was done with public school. 

“I felt very alone and isolated from everyone else and within two weeks, I wanted to get out,” Chisolm said about her brief stint in the public school. 

The halls at American Youthworks where she attends class seem like any other high school, but these students trade school books for skeletons, homework for hardhats and grades for graphic design.  

“They came for a second chance. They want to learn and they want to do better,” Chisolm said.  

Research from the Intercultural Development Research Association shows one in five Texas high schoolers will drop out. The YouthBuild program allows them back in, as well as those who have been homeless, dealt with mental health issues or were incarcerated, among other reasons. 

“A lot of them have given up on themselves and come here not really expecting to be successful and we try to flip that script and see that lightbulb come on and see that flame of hope burn brighter,” said David Clauss, the YouthBuild program director for American Youthworks. 

Clauss said 75 to 80 percent of YouthBuild grads will go on to higher education or a job in Austin.

“We’re all focused on the same plan, all trying to move local low-income families to connect with the opportunities here in Austin,” Clauss said. 

Students like Chisolm can shape the future landscape of our city. She will earn her high school degree by the end of February. 

“When you want to do better, sometimes the door can be slammed in your face, so it’s important for students to get a second chance because they are the future,” Chisolm said.  

The nonprofit works with the local government and workforce board to design programs that match the local economy.  Each student in the YouthBuild program has the option to focus their trajectory on careers in construction, computer technology or healthcare. Members earn a stipend while enrolled and have access to college credits and national industry-recognized certificates. 

$85 Million Grant 

The grant for American YouthWorks is part of $85 million awarded to YouthBuild programs in 32 states.  

All of the grants range from about $700,000 to more than $1 million. 

The only other organization in Texas that is getting money besides American YouthWorks is ‘Community Development Corporation of Brownsville’.