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Rev. Ronald Covington knows how important pathways to promising employment are for youth in our community, particularly for youth who grow up in the midst of gun violence and poverty. In his role as Director of BUILD (Believers United in Local Development), he shares, “I do more funerals than a lot of people, and that’s how we really got started. We asked the young people at a funeral, ‘How many of you would be willing to trade in your gun for a hammer?’ If we could teach these young people trades, it would get their minds a whole different mindset. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do to change the culture that’s in our community.”  

BUILD received a 2019 Faith & Action Grant to help them reach more unemployed or underemployed youth with accredited training for in-demand skills in the construction industry. Each program participant receives a tool belt with basic hand tools, construction boots, personal protective equipment, lunches, and a weekly stipend during the 14-week training period. In addition, trainees receive counseling, transportation assistance, rental assistance, and financial counseling as needed. Using an evidence-based approach that focuses on disrupting poverty through mentoring and education, BUILD collaborates with numerous local partners through YouthBuild Indy including West Side Ministers, Friendship Missionary Church, EmployIndy, Marian University, CICF, INHP, and Marion County Community Corrections. 

Rev. Covington says we can help youth find promising employment by teaching them practical skills while helping them build meaningful, supportive relationships. “We teach them a trade, love on them, show them we care, and we have been able to change the lives of these young people. It’s about really building their lives and giving them opportunities.” 

The need for pathways to promising employment is critical in our community, and the 2023 Faith & Action Spring Conference on March 8th seeks to highlight this need while providing presentations, panel discussions, and participant discussion to brainstorm solutions with like-minded community members. The 2023 Faith & Action Grant process is now open and accepting applications through April 19th. Interested organizations must send a representative to the Spring Conference as part of the application process. 

You can hear Rev. Covington speak about BUILD and learn about the work other Faith & Action Grant recipients are doing to break the cycle of poverty in the short video below.