Washington, D.C., March 17 – One by one, young adults filed across a stage on the National Mall holding up giant cardboard keys representing the number of affordable homes YouthBuild has built or refurbished nationwide. “California: 2,200 affordable housing units.” “Hawaii: 160 affordable housing units.” “Massachusetts: 2,100 affordable housing units.” “Virginia: 300 affordable housing units.”

The “Parade of States,” which tallied up to more than 16,000 affordable homes, kicked off the closing ceremonies of the YouthBuild AmeriCorps Green Homebuilding Service Day on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. During the event, students and program graduates learned green building techniques and used that knowledge to build the framework of an energy-efficient home on site.

In its 30 years of existence, the nonprofit YouthBuild program has enabled low-income young people with troubled backgrounds—including those affected by drugs, homelessness, and gangs—to transform their lives by serving their communities building affordable housing while gaining valuable job training and diplomas or GEDs. The program benefits the students as much as the families moving into new or remodeled homes. With its focus on green education, this year’s national event expanded the program’s benefits even further by encouraging construction of energy- and resource-efficient homes that save money and help the planet.

In addition to building a home on the Mall, students visited stations for hands-on learning of green building techniques and topics--including insulation, energy-efficient lighting, insulated box-beam headers, solar panels, and sustainable landscaping. Students making the trip can then implement that knowledge at the local level.

“I’m going to take this back home and introduce it to them,” YouthBuild member Juan Pena of Waukegan, Ill., said of his newly gained knowledge of spray-foam insulation, noting that the hands-on experience with the green products was especially helpful.