Kerry Knodle, the Executive Director of Comprehensive Community Solutions, has helped changed the lives of thousands around the Stateline.
He brought programs, like YouthBuild, to Rockford. It is his passion and dedication to the Rockford community for more than two decades that makes him Stateline Strong.
Knodle recently entered retirement. Eyewitness News sat down with Knodle, who discussed his life’s greatest accomplishments.
“It’s always been about the young people that we serve,” Knodle stated. “Having worked in the court system in the probation department here for 12 years, I was intimately familiar with the challenges being faced by young people in this community.”
Knodle said he made it his life goal to serve at-risk youth.
The executive director of Comprehensive Solutions, the non-profit that operates YouthBuild in Rockford among other programs, started the non-profit 26 years ago.
He said it was his passion to help others that led him to create the organization and bring YouthBuild to Rockford. The program is aimed at 16-24 year olds from low-income families and provides academic education, vocational training, counseling, and leadership development.
“The biggest accomplishment are the young people who have gone though these programs that we have operated. They’ve gone on to start their own businesses, raise a family, get active in the community, start their own non for profits. That’s the biggest accomplishment,” Knodle stated.
According to Comprehensive Community Solutions, 70% of people who start the YouthBuild program in Rockford finish it and of those that finish the program, 75% go on to either a job, post-secondary education, or both.
“If you turn on any news channel today and see the divisiveness that’s going on in our society, it reemphasizes to me the need to do what YouthBuild does which is the need to build young leaders,” said Knodle.
More than 6,000 people have applied to be part of the YouthBuild program in Rockford over the years. Knodle says 1,100 graduated.
“That’s been oen of the challenges is you have way more people needing and wanting to be involved in this program to make their lives better than we have the resources to serve, so that’s been the on-going challenge,” he explained. “It’s profound in the sense that you realize that this program that I didn’t personally create — I brought it to Rockford — that this thing really does work; that when you hear so many things in the news and online of things that don’t work. This is something that works. It’s hard to describe the feeling that you get knowing that this is not only the best job I’ve ever had. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
YouthBuild graduate Jozelynn Jackson said the program changed her life.
“I dropped out after my sophomore year. I just didn’t’t feel like I wouldn’t’t be able to make it. Now I’m making it. I’m doing good,” she said, praising the program.
Knodle said volunteers also helped build affordable housing, including two subdivisions and 44 single-family homes on Rockford’s west and northwest sides.
“I recall when we finished the first subdivision at Lincolnwood Estates. I said ‘expletive deleted’ wow! We did this!’ and when I drive through there today and the homes are still standing, many original owners still in them, that’s a great feeling,” he explained.
While reflecting over his accomplishments, Knodle said helping youth and providing affordable housing remain some of the greatest.