Rancho Cielo loses out on grant

From the Monterey Herald: The Rancho Cielo construction program in Salinas has been called the "rock star" of the YouthBuild programs nationwide.

Yet when it came to funding the program, Rancho Cielo didn't getting paid to do another encore.

Officials at YouthBuild — a federal program where at-risk youth work toward their GED or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing — have told Rancho Cielo that after two years it is "getting the best results, it is the most smoothly and most professionally run program," said Executive Director Susie Brusa.

This year, however, Rancho Cielo did not receive the $1.1 million U.S. Department of Labor YouthBuild grant it was expecting.

Brusa said they didn't get funding because their construction project — building transitional housing on campus — wasn't large enough to compete with other bids.
The news was a bitter pill for the school and social services center that provides educational opportunities and job training for at-risk youth in Monterey County. But the school is in no danger, Brusa said.

"Obviously it hurt us," said John M. Phillips, the former superior court judge who founded the school. "We're going to have to cut some stuff. (But) we're going to patch it together. A lot of people are coming together to make it happen."

Rancho Cielo had been divided into the Drummond Culinary Academy and the YouthBuild Construction program. Students get vocational training in both areas while earning their diplomas.

Rancho Cielo applied for the grant this year with the construction project and the culinary program, taking advantage of a change in regulations.

"In our county, what we need is hospitality and (agriculture), so we have a culinary academy which was modeled after a YouthBuild program even though we didn't have one (when it was started)," said Brusa. "It's a national best practice."

In the grant application, Rancho Cielo scored the maximum number of points in results, the amount of need in the community and other areas. But "ultimately the weight that they put in the construction program was still more important than whatever other little vocation you were experimenting with," said Brusa.

Now Rancho Cielo is developing a "construction academy," a new construction program that will be privately funded. The school will also be a partner with Hartnell College and the Monterey County Behavioral Health Bureau.

The school is trying to cut costs to keep the construction program afloat. YouthBuild, combined with crew-based work program Youth Corps, had a budget of more than $1 million for the 2013-14 school year. That budget, which will now go toward the new construction academy, is expected to be reduced by about 50 percent.

News Item Publication Date: 
Friday, July 26, 2013