Feb 24th, 2021

Transforming Communities: One Person and One Job at a Time

Elizabeth WellingtonPlaceLab’s contributing journalist and lifestyle writer pens her work in a historic Vermont farmhouse. Liz's writing has appeared in Vogue, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, BBC, and The Week.

When Elijah Stephenson moved to Rhode Island, he thought back to his recent experience as a YouthBuild student where he grew up, in Queens, New York. In YouthBuild programs, opportunity youth — young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed — pursue their education, prepare for future careers and grow into community leaders, building brighter futures for themselves and their neighborhoods.

When you offer young people access to support and opportunities, they step into their unique strengths and bring them into the world. The ripple effects transform lives and communities.

As Stephenson began to plot his course in a new place, he reflected on a YouthBuild mentor in Queens who continued to make a difference in his life. That experience inspired him to join YouthBuild again, this time through YouthBuild Providence, where he worked to get his GED and gain more job skills. There, he also discovered a true confidence – both in himself, and in others – and in their ability to succeed.

Stephenson graduated from YouthBuild Providence and embarked on a fantastic career, but that’s far from the end of his YouthBuild story. Like many alumni of YouthBuild programs, Stephenson once again maintained close ties to his mentors there. But this time, he stayed after graduating. Inspired by his experiences in the program, he began working for YouthBuild Providence. Now, while earning his bachelor’s degree, he works as a student success coordinator helping the next generation of YouthBuild students earn the knowledge, training, and opportunities that lead to long-term professional and personal success.

Elijah Stephenson gives the keynote address at YouthBuild’s 2019 Conference of Young Leaders. Photo credit Denny Henry Photography.

Workforce development begins with youth

When you offer young people access to support and opportunities, they step into their unique strengths and bring them into the world. The ripple effects transform lives and communities.

To date, YouthBuild has partnered with more than 180,000 young people, helping them to receive their high school equivalency or diploma, along with key industry credentials, life skills, and professional training. Collectively, those YouthBuild students have dedicated over 50 million hours of service to improving their urban, rural and tribal communities. YouthBuild students thrive within an ecosystem of support that includes local staff, volunteers, mentors, and partners, as well as YouthBuild USA, the nonprofit support center for a global network of 290 local YouthBuild programs in 18 countries, with 233 programs in 46 U.S. states and territories and 57 programs in 17 other countries.

To date, YouthBuild has partnered with more than 180,000 young people, helping them to receive their high school equivalency or diploma, along with key industry credentials, life skills, and professional training.

YouthBuild’s core philosophy is that empowering young people is the key to professional growth. They give students the tools to thrive as human beings, living full, vibrant lives. Love Jefferson, who works with YouthBuild students in the Greater Los Angeles area, believes that emotional intelligence is a crucial ingredient for professional success. He helps youth develop four core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship skills. 

“I focus on the untapped talent that’s out there and lives in our communities. They have the capacity to be leaders if they choose to, and we’re going to build that leadership capacity through these training sessions,” Jefferson says.

Love Jefferson, who works with YouthBuild students in the Greater Los Angeles area, believes that emotional intelligence is a crucial ingredient for professional success. 

YouthBuild faced hurdles adapting their programming to remote learning and mentorship during the COVID-19 pandemic—but rather than resist the change, they embraced it. “Computer tech knowledge is a necessity in today’s workforce, so we approached the subject as an opportunity to educate young people about skills they would need as they ventured into the construction and healthcare job markets,” shared Nicole Rosenbaum, Program Manager at OhioGuidestone YouthBuild.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization has continued to make it possible for participants to step into new opportunities. One student, who is also a full-time mom, believes that YouthBuild remote programs changed her life. “I realized I needed to get back into school to better my future, for myself and my child. I have come so far in life over the past five months because I attended YouthBuild,” she shared.

Motivated by our mission to support talent, EQ Office has developed a national partnership with YouthBuild USA to support these students and has joined the effort to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Motivated by our mission to support talent, EQ Office has developed a national partnership with YouthBuild USA to support these students and has joined the effort to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. One key aspect of the partnership includes expanding the job skills training and hands-on mentoring that YouthBuild programs offer young people who wish to build careers in real estate or construction fields. Since the restrictions of COVID-19 limited traditional volunteer formats, our teams innovated to bring new professional development opportunities into classrooms, and found win-win success in executing a virtual professional development series.

Supporting local talent and EQ employees

Our partnership with YouthBuild USA dovetails with our internal efforts to provide our own team members workforce development programs, as well as opportunities to serve in communities. With our orientation program, EQ University (EQ U), we guide internal teams and partners through core practices that bring emotional intelligence to any work challenge. 

I was truly impressed with each of the YouthBuild students. Participating helped me to make connections outside of my typical professional-life community, and gave me a new perspective.

In 2020, 60 EQ team members participated in a workforce development program for local YouthBuild programs. As part of a Social Week of Giving, they participated in 11 virtual forums and panel discussions introducing students to careers in building management and construction. They also led virtual mock interviews, asking YouthBuild students questions before offering written feedback on their successes and opportunities to improve. 

Paul Gordon, Senior Vice President of Operations at EQ Office, describes his experience during mock interviews:

“The open dialogue and format of the program provided a unique opportunity to hear students’ stories, answer questions and guide them to define goals, identify potential obstacles and develop strategies for perseverance. I was truly impressed with each of the YouthBuild students. Participating helped me to make connections outside of my typical professional-life community, and gave me a new perspective.”

Not only does the YouthBuild USA partnership serve students, but it connects team members to our shared purpose and to their neighbors. We know that when people can bring their work into the community, everyone wins. 

Not only does the YouthBuild USA partnership serve students, but it connects team members to our shared purpose and to their neighbors. We know that when people can bring their work into the community, everyone wins. 

It’s never been more important to lift up our communities at EQ and beyond. We’re dedicating our company’s efforts to ensure that the future of work benefits everyone — and especially our neighbors. That’s why we will also secure at least five new internships each quarter for YouthBuild program participants, giving them real-life experience on the job. We’re inviting our customers and vendor partners to join us.


If you have an internship opportunity to offer or would like to join us in mentoring opportunity youth, reach out at eqimpact@eqoffice.com

To learn more about EQ Impact, we invite you to read our 2019-2020 Environmental, Social, and Governance Report

Elizabeth WellingtonPlaceLab’s contributing journalist and lifestyle writer pens her work in a historic Vermont farmhouse. Liz's writing has appeared in Vogue, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, BBC, and The Week.