Senator Jeff Merkley Visits Heart of Oregon YouthBuild to Meet Program Youth

Bend, OR – Senator Merkley took time this week to meet with Heart of Oregon YouthBuild, witnessing first-hand the program’s work providing youth with meaningful opportunities to benefit their community while raising their own bar of expectations at the same time. Heart of Oregon Corps (HOC) was thrilled to host Senator Merkley and demonstrate the unique YouthBuild model and its profound impact on our youth.

During the visit, Heart of Oregon staff and corpsmembers shared the educational, personal, and professional development components that YouthBuild offers to its youth. They discussed the integral role the program plays in preparing youth who face multiple barriers and risk factors to become more engaged, successful citizens in their communities. In April 2015, Senator Merkley invited HOC youth to ask initial questions at town halls in all 3 Central Oregon counties, and presented the organization with a flag that had flown over the US Capitol.

“When I was growing up, my dad always encouraged me to build things and work with my hands, because he knew those lessons would stay with me through my life,” Senator Merkley said. “My dad was absolutely right, and now YouthBuild is giving kids in Central Oregon an opportunity to develop practical job skills and keep them on track to get an education. There are lots of pathways to success, and I know from the young people I’ve heard from today that YouthBuild provides one extremely valuable option. I thank YouthBuild for their efforts to support students, and I’ll continue to do everything I can to make sure the federal government is a strong partner.”

During his visit to the YouthBuild headquarters in Sisters, Senator Merkley received a youth-led tour and conducted a Q&A session with the youth. Youth in the program work toward GED/high school diplomas two days per week and serve on-site to build affordable homes two days per week, gaining work skills and construction industry certifications along the way. Youth have constructed or rehabbed 25 low-income homes in 7 Central Oregon towns since 2009. In addition to the blended program that enables students to focus on educational and career goals simultaneously, youth leadership and community involvement is a hallmark of YouthBuild, exemplified in the youth-elected Youth Partnership Council. Volunteer mentors also play a critical support role for youth success.

“Leadership and service is built into the YouthBuild model, so it is extremely impactful for our young people to meet Senator Merkley, who encourages them to advocate and create change in their communities,” shares YouthBuild Program Director Kara Johnson. “Senator Merkley has been an advocate for Heart of Oregon YouthBuild for ten years now. His continual support of YouthBuild on the local and national levels impacts thousands of opportunity youth throughout the United States each year.”

The Heart of Oregon YouthBuild program is supported by grants from the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, a national service AmeriCorps grant, as well as from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission and local foundations, community organizations, and Sisters School District.

About Heart of Oregon Corps

Heart of Oregon Corps is a nonprofit organization invested in inspiring and empowering change in the lives of Central Oregon youth through jobs, education, and stewardship. Their programming creates pathways out of poverty while stimulating regional economic growth. They apply a “work-earn-learn” model that invests in local young people, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, to prepare them for the workforce and to encourage their self-sufficiency. HOC is licensed construction contractor, CCB #188805. Heart of Oregon Corps trains tomorrow’s workforce today! For more info or for youth applications, visit

About YouthBuild

YouthBuild USA is the non-profit support center for 360 local YouthBuild programs operating in 23 countries, with 260 programs in 44 U.S. states and 100 programs in 22 other countries. In YouthBuild programs, unemployed, low-income, and out-of-school young people ages 16 to 24 work toward their high school diploma or equivalency, while learning job skills by building affordable housing and other community assets in their neighborhoods and engaging in community service and leadership training. Proven effective by the most rigorous program evaluation research, YouthBuild’s comprehensive model gives graduates the confidence and tools they need to become strong, responsible, and ethical young leaders. For more information, visit

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 American’s in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. Since the program’s founding in 1994, almost 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.2 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.