In 1976, American YouthWorks emerged as the Creative Rapid Learning Center (CRLC) working with youth and adults in East Austin and providing them with necessary job skills that recognize the needs of individuals neglected by the educational system. On October 1, 1981, The American Institute for Learning (AIL) was incorporated and established as the parent organization to CRCL. In 1986, AIL was established in downtown Austin at 406 and 408 Congress and established to serve high school dropouts by offering additional programs including GED classes to undereducated youth and adults in the form of self-paced, computer training. In 1989, AIL added more reading education classes and eventually consolidated in a building at an old gas company building at 420 Congress. AIL later changed it’s name to American YouthWorks (AYW).
Environmental Corps (E-Corps) started in 1992 in the basement of the downtown building as a summer project for in-school youth to do water quality testing on creeks in the Austin city limits. AIL also started partnering at that time with Habitat for Humanity as a way for youth working toward their GED to acquire construction skills and apply math skills learned in the classroom. This inspired AIL to develop their own green home building program in 1993 and with the help of the City of Austin Green Builders program and funding from the Governor’s Energy office were able to pay students for the construction work and establish Casa Verde Builders (CVB).
CVB, E-Corps and GED classes grew out of the building on Congress and in 1994, AIL purchased a warehouse at 4th Street and Brazos, where they would eventually build the first commercially built green building in downtown Austin (216 E. 4th Street) and started running AmeriCorps and YouthBuild job programs in 1995. Soon after moving into the building at 4th and Brazos, AIL changed its name to AYW and began one of the first open enrollment charter high schools in Texas. In November 1997, CVB and E-Corps came together under AYW Americorps programs.
In 2002, AYW obtained property at Ben White Blvd and IH-35 (1901 and 1911 E. Ben White Blvd.) and established a south campus to expand the campus size and job training programs, while also increasing proximity to East Austin youth. Then, in 2009, AYW combined the downtown and south campuses along with administrative offices to offer a one-stop headquarters for students to receive all the services they need to succeed.
Over the years, AYW learned from the youth they serve to directly address the multiple barriers to the future success of “at-promise” youth and as a result, AYW developed an educational methodology that combines diploma or GED education with real world experience and training with an emphasis that teaches young people to serve their community.
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