US Programs

buildOn’s youth service programs engage students in challenging urban areas and show them the limitless power they can achieve through community action.

In each of these programs, youth contribute intensive local service – helping the homeless, seniors and children in their communities – to confront urban struggles with passion and optimism.

Learn more about the education crisis and what we’re doing about it.

Urban cities we serve

buildOn’s youth service programs engage students in 62 high schools in seven challenging urban areas.



1164 Students Engaged
246,536 Service Hours

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The Bay Area

497 Students Engaged
194,675 Service Hours

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773 Students Engaged
238,036 Service Hours

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811 Students Engaged
212,451 Service Hours

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New York

1544 Students Engaged
343,805 Service Hours

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488 Students Engaged
141,696 Service Hours

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  • Chicago
  • The Bay Area
  • Connecticut
  • Detroit
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Boston

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Break the cycle

Breaking the cycle of poverty through a movement that builds life, community and an entirely new world.

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What students say about buildOn Youth Service Programs:

  • George-testimonial

    “I see these people around me always complaining about how nobody helps them. But I thought, that’s how life goes, at the end of the day the only person who can make your life better, is you. But what buildOn taught me is that you don’t have to do it alone.”

    George McCloud

Our Approach

We believe education is the first step out of extreme poverty in the developing world. We also believe it is the first step toward action here at home.



We believe education is the first step out of extreme poverty in the developing world. We also believe it is the first step toward action here at home.

If students are to strive for change, they must first understand the issues facing their local and global communities. Our goal is for students to fully realize the impact of their contributions, not to act simply on the instructions of others. buildOn‘s themed curriculum explores critical global issues and explains to students how they relate to our own lives here in the U.S.

In addition to local and global issues, our curriculum emphasizes leadership development. buildOn programs integrate this curriculum into weekly afterschool meetings, which help students to understand their role in the larger world.

Global Education topics focus on buildOn project countries – Nicaragua, Haiti, Malawi, Mali, Senegal, Nepal, and Burkina Faso – and aim to engage students in the cultures and lives of the people they help by building schools.

Local Education focuses on challenges that face their immediate communities, informing students of issues like pollution, food deserts, and school reform.

Service is the core of buildOn’s mission, an instrumental vehicle for youth development and empowerment. Through service, students address problems in their communities while developing personal leadership and teamwork skills. And by making a positive difference in the lives of others, they learn more about themselves and the power they have to transform their neighborhoods, their cities, and our country.

Direct Service

Whether serving meals in soup kitchens, tutoring elementary school students, or visiting senior citizens, buildOn service projects connect students directly to those most in need in their communities. With face to face encounters, youth develop empathy and compassion. They create bonds that affect their own lives just as profoundly as the lives of those they serve. 60% of all buildOn service activities are dedicated to direct, people to people service.

Indirect Service

Sometimes the most noticeable and uplifting difference you can make in a community is to beautify it. By planting urban gardens, cleaning up graffiti, or creating public art, students show their neighbors that they care. Indirect service allows students to make a difference in small ways that can have a big impact on the community at large.


After learning about issues that plague their local and global communities, buildOn students actively create and implement campaigns to address them.  They educate their peers on health issues, they plan walks to promote gender equality in the developing world, and they advocate new strategies to combat the truancy crisis in their schools. In the process, they learn the value of their own voice.

When buildOn students travel to some of the most impoverished communities in the world to witness firsthand the incredible enthusiasm for education from children who lack all access to it, they gain a renewed appreciation for their own educational opportunities.

Through buildOn’s Trek for Knowledge program, high school students travel to a foreign country and work side-by-side with communities to build their first school. They live with host families in rural villages, forging meaningful relationships and unforgettable memories. Often with no running water or electricity, students leave the familiar to experience life in a developing world. For up to ten days, they help dig foundations, make bricks, and mix concrete in collaboration with the parents whose children will benefit from the school. They see in the sweating, smiling faces around them an overwhelming dedication to learning.

When not on the worksite, students participate in activities that expose them to a whole new culture, a culture fundamentally different and yet sometimes surprisingly similar to their own. Our students learn that while economically impoverished, these communities are rich in spirit and generosity. They return with a deeper dedication to education and a sense of expanded possibility for their lives.

Take Action

Make a difference in your community and your world.

Build a Community

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a developing country to
build a school.

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your voice to the
buildOn movement.

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Donate to Our Programs

Use your passion and creativity to raise awareness of the U.S. education crisis and fundraise to end it.

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