Founder of YouthBuild USA, Inc., now adviser to Opportunity Youth United
Dorothy Stoneman is the founder and former CEO of YouthBuild USA, Inc. the support center for 260 YouthBuild programs in the U.S., and 80 in 21 other countries including South Africa, Mexico, Iraq, and Israel.
In YouthBuild programs, low-income unemployed young people ages 16-24 who lack a high school diploma enroll full-time for 6-24 months. They work toward their HSE or diploma while getting paid to build affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in their neighborhoods. Caring adult staff emphasize personal responsibility, mutual support, and leadership development. Graduates go on to jobs and/or college. Since 1994, more than 165,000 YouthBuild students have produced over 33,000 units of low-income housing in America’s most hard-pressed urban and rural communities. Over $1.6B federal dollars have been awarded to local YouthBuild programs to achieve these results.
Stoneman earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1963 and masters and doctoral degrees from Bank Street College of Education. She joined the Civil Rights movement in 1964, and worked with residents at the Harlem Action Group to create summer preparatory programs for children heading to first grade who had somehow missed kindergarten. She taught second grade in the Harlem Public Schools, and then joined the parent-controlled East Harlem Block Schools as a teacher. The parents promoted her to executive director in 1969. She started the first YouthBuild program there in 1978 in partnership with local teenagers and then orchestrated its scaling nationally and internationally.
Believing in collective mobilization to effect policy toward the elimination of poverty and injustice, Stoneman has served on many boards and coalitions, including Youth Service America, Stand for Children, Ford Foundation Leaders for a Changing World, Forum for Youth Investment, Harvard Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement, Youth Action Programs and Homes, Inc., Sar Levitan Youth Policy Network, Tufts University Applied Developmental Science Institute, Save AmeriCorps Coalition, Task Force on Poverty – Center for American Progress, America’s Promise Alliance for Youth, Voices for National Service, ServiceNation, Public Allies, Markle Initiative, Opportunity Youth Network, America Forward, Emerald Cities Collaborative, GradNation, Campaign for Youth, and the Campaign to Reconnect One Million.
She is a recipient of the America’s Promise Award (2017), Harvard Call to Service Award (2011), the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2007), the John Gardner Leadership Award (2000), and a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship (1996). In 2013 she was invited to speak on the Mall at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Freedom and Justice, marking YouthBuild’s place as part of the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.
In 2012 Stoneman convened a group of national non-profits who created the National Council of Young Leaders. This Council quickly became a major voice for low-income young adults across the country, promoting their own Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America. In 2015 they launched a new movement called Opportunity Youth United, designed to build a robust grassroots network of deeply engaged, solution-oriented, united, passionate young people from all racial and ethnic groups, both urban and rural, and their allies. Stoneman currently works with this Council to build Opportunity Youth United (www.OYUnited.org) across the country.