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High School Equivalency That Makes an Impact in Indianapolis, IN

High School Equivalency That Makes an Impact in Indianapolis, IN
School Name and Location: 
YouthBuild Indy
The Challenge: 

Twenty-two percent of Marion County, Indiana, youth under 18 years of age are living at poverty level. These young people have talent and intelligence that are not currently being utilized because of the lack of opportunity. YouthBuild programs help provide youth with the opportunity to take control of their education and gain the skills they need for employment and to become active members of their communities.

YouthBuild is an international organization that takes in young people between the ages of 18–24 and pairs high school equivalency education with on-the-job training and work experience in the construction industry, building homes and other buildings in blighted communities. YouthBuild USA has 260 programs in 46 states.

Since its inception in 2008, the Indianapolis, Indiana, YouthBuild affiliate has served more than 300 individuals. YouthBuild Indy’s education component is administered by Marian University.

How They Did it: 

YouthBuild Indy is a small program, only having accommodated up to 70 students per annual class. The small size makes it easier to ensure that each participant receives the help needed. Plato Courseware, Edmentum Accucess, and Edmentum Test Packs play a vital role in identifying and addressing those needs.

“I had great results with Plato when I was at Lawrence Central High School,” said Dr. Judy Bardonner, the director of Marian University’s Center for Community Learning. “We [YouthBuild] use Accucess, Test Packs, and [Plato] Courseware to assess and focus learners in specific areas, then add some one-to-one tutoring. We do small-group instruction as well.”

Marian University has designed a high school equivalency program for YouthBuild Indy that features an active learner approach, focusing on building relationships, independent learning, and self-efficacy. Success is due mainly to the dedicated teachers who provide individualized direct instruction and who are fluent in multisensory and cognitive strategies. “Universities are an indispensable partner because of their capacity to support learning programs by sharing expertise in program design and development, offering professional development in best-practice teaching methods, establishing resources such as high-quality teachers, assisting with data collection and analysis, and providing technological access and support,” reported Bardonner.

“Teacher training is critical to the success of a YouthBuild program,” said Bardonner. “Relationship building is a bridge to student learning. Our teachers know that respect for all students and their culture creates a learner-centered environment which supports student achievement.”

Students spend roughly half their time with Marian University’s teachers completing their requirements for a high school diploma or its equivalent. The other half is spent on active construction job sites learning skills that are in demand in the local economy and earning certifications that can lead to meaningful careers or self-employment.


In 2015, YouthBuild Indy reached a high of 86 percent of participants receiving their high school equivalency diplomas. In eight years, the program has helped over 300 students move toward consequential full-time employment. YouthBuild Indy was recently ranked among the top 15 educational performers among YouthBuild’s 190 affiliates.

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