On August 31st, YouthBuild Philadelphia held a commencement for its 20th class of graduates at Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. Friends, family, and other YouthBuild supporters packed the church to watch 109 members of the Class of 2012 receive their diplomas and join the ranks of YouthBuild’s 1,950 alumni.
Friday’s ceremony was not the graduates’ first time at Zion Baptist; only a year ago, they had attended the Class of 2011 graduation during the final “Mental Toughness” stage of applying to YouthBuild. Continuing this tradition, the incoming Class of 2013 also attended this year’s graduation to see where they could be in a year.
Valedictorian Anthony Keys addressed the incoming class at the end of his speech with some words of advice:
You might have late nights and early mornings. You will have to make many sacrifices. You have to be dedicated to your studies and to your future. Realize that knowledge is power. Take it, run with it and create change.
The ceremony was a testament to how much YouthBuild students have accomplished in a single year, and how many more opportunities and accomplishments lie ahead because of their success at YouthBuild. Keynote speaker Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter – who is a long-time supporter of YouthBuild dating back to his time on City Council and has now spoken at four consecutive graduations – congratulated graduates for successfully pursuing their education this year while managing their personal and family responsibilities, and counseled them to be “life-long learners.”
Two thirds of the graduates plan to attend post-secondary educational institutions this year, with most attending Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA. These two schools partnered with YouthBuild over the summer to host bridge programs where students could take classes on campus to build on their YouthBuild education and prepare for college enrollment in the fall.
These unique summer programs would not be possible without partners who believe in our students and are committed to their education and well-being. YouthBuild presented its annual Legacy Award to Chris Metzler, the Director of Student Life at Thaddeus Stevens, for ensuring that students in the summer bridge program had an excellent experience and for his commitment to the success of YouthBuild students. CCP faculty member Abbey Wexler was given the 2012 Meaningful Impact Award, following an appreciative speech from Class of 2012 graduate and CCP Summer Bridge participant Brayell Glover.
While the summer bridge programs have helped students tremendously in preparing to enroll and succeed at partner institutions, the costs of college are still a significant consideration for YouthBuild students, who are often the first in their families to go to college. Another highlight from Friday’s ceremony was the announcement of 12 scholarships for college-bound students, made possible by supporters of the Scholarship Fund and generous members of the YouthBuild Board of Trustees.
Student speakers at the event included Class of 2012 Valedictorian Anthony Keys, Salutatorian Tahir Ingram, Staff Award Presenters Jasmin Holloway, Danielle Downing and Porche Faulkner, and Excellence Award winner Chandell Marshall. We’ll borrow our parting words from Chandell’s speech:
Class of 2012, the excellence we have shown throughout the year should not stop here. This is only the beginning of the bright and beautiful futures we have paved together.
To see more photos, visit our Flickr photo set! Use the comments section below to leave a note of congratulations to our graduates.