Project Youthbuild AmeriCorps Volunteers Beautify the Thelma Boltin Center

A landscape beautification project at the Thelma Boltin Center (516 NE Second Ave.) was completed in late January by Project YouthBuild AmeriCorps YouthBuilders. The 37 youth worked tirelessly trimming back and removing trees, disposing of old mulch and debris from existing foliage and power-washing outdoor areas, giving the center a fresh, clean look.

In 2009, Institute For Workforce Innovation (IWI) launched Alachua YouthBuild AmeriCorps in Gainesville through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The project’s objective is to improve the lives of young people within the local community.

"Project YouthBuild's goal is to make a continuous positive impact within our community; we are delighted to partner with the city. Our students learn so much about their neighborhood as we work alongside residents and staff," said Carrie Tam, chief operating officer for IWI.

The students ranged in age from 16- to 24-years-old. Coming from low-income households and not having a high school diploma, the IWI youth are looking for opportunities to learn, engage, and transform their lives. The transformation is accomplished through an intensive, nine-month program where students study for their high school diploma, build and rehabilitate low-income housing, earn a nationally-recognized construction certification and develop leadership, life and employability skills.

This volunteer project is a part of a new partnership between the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department (PRCA) and IWI. Jonathan Leslie, executive director for IWI and LaShundra Coley’Hale, interim volunteer coordinator for PRCA, brokered the partnership to send a group of students to provide volunteer services to PRCA once a week for the duration of the program. These service activities help participants apply skills learned in the Project YouthBuild curriculum to a real life experience.

Images from the workday at the Thelma Boltin Center may be viewed online at