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Birmingham’s BuildUP School Receives $3 Million to Expand Skilled Trades For High School Students

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BuildUP Community School Executive Director James Sutton, left, and founder, Dr. Mark Martin. (PROVIDED)

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

BuildUP Community School in Birmingham on Tuesday received $3 million to expand programs that prepare high school youth for skilled trade careers and homeownership.

Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) and The Wells Fargo Foundation named Build UP one of the six winners of the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge (HABC), a nationwide competition to find and seed innovative housing solutions across the U.S.

In addition to the grant funding, the six winning organizations will receive support from peers and industry experts to scale new strategies aimed at making homes more accessible.

BuildUP Community School is a private workforce development high school that equips students with knowledge and skills for high-demand, high paying careers in trade jobs over a six year period.

BuildUP’s expansion will be spearheaded by founder, Dr. Mark Martin, who plans to establish new sites within Alabama and extend the program nationally. The three-year grant will provide funding to hire new staff, establish a national headquarters, and expand the house donation/relocation program to fulfill BuildUP’s mission of equipping students with a career-connected education while preparing them to own homes that foster generational wealth and neighborhood revitalization.

“We get calls almost weekly from people asking us to bring BuildUP to their communities,” said Martin. “We always saw the need for expansion, and Enterprise and Wells Fargo have now helped open the door to that opportunity.”

HABC funds will also be used to support the flagship high school, BuildUP Community School, in Birmingham’s Titusville community, led by Executive Director James Sutton.

Sutton’s goal is to continue to grow the school’s enrollment with students who desire high-wage, high-demand jobs in the trades and want to become homeowners.

“Winning the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge puts us into a pool of like-minded people who are doing great work – people we can continue to grow with and lean on for support,” Sutton said. “It also means we can see more of our students become homeowners and literally change the trajectory of their lives.”

The competition drew more than 400 applications from a wide range of innovative nonprofit and mission-driven for-profit organizations stretching from Florida to Alaska in three categories: access and resident support, construction, and financing.

BuildUP won in the access and resident support category. After two application rounds, 16 finalists were invited to present their innovations in a 10-minute pitch to a panel of judges composed of national affordable housing and community development experts, including leaders from Wells Fargo and Enterprise.

The other competition grant winners are: Grounded Solutions Network, Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hydronic Shell Technologies, Module and Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority.

The 2023 winners will take part in a multi-year peer learning network to share ideas and cultivate their innovations into solutions that can be applied to communities across the U.S. The cohort will gain access to a network of leaders from across the housing sector, including experts from Enterprise and past winners of the competition.

For more information on the competition, as well as the finalists and their winning proposals, visit the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge website.

BuildUP was founded in 2018 in Ensley with a mission to empower youth, families, and communities to lift themselves out of poverty and lead self-sufficient lives.