YouthBuild Philly Celebrates 30th Anniversary at Annual Fundraiser, #GrowYB: Sturdy Thirty

Last week we celebrated our 30th Anniversary at our annual fundraising event #GrowYB! This year’s theme was “Sturdy Thirty,” which celebrated YouthBuild Philly’s long history empowering young people to be the next generation of leaders! Thank you to the more than 125 guests (virtually and in-person) and 13 sponsors who supported this year’s event. It was an exciting time commemorating this milestone with our students, alumni, staff, partners and loyal supporters! 

This year was special as it marked the return to in-person celebrations and raised more than $35,000 to support our school and our students – a new record! Thank you to each of our supporters for their kindness and generosity. Your contribution supports hundreds of young people each year, helping them to seize opportunities to become critically conscious leaders, committed to positive change for themselves and their communities.

Additionally, congratulations to our previous and current Board Chairs, who we honored for their leadership and significant contributions to our school over the past three decades. We truly appreciate your commitment to our mission.

  • John Andrew Gallery (founding Board Chair, 1992-2004) (Right)
  • Erin McNamara Horvat (2004-2008; current Board member) (Left)
  • Cindy Skinner (2008-2012) (Right)
  • Tim Daniel (2012-2016; honored during virtual celebration)
  • Marty Brigham (2016-2019)(Right)
  • Melanie McCottry (2019-present) (Right)

Special thanks to our sponsors who helped make this year’s event possible! In addition to our presenting sponsors Rycon Inc. and our host sponsors Tamman Inc., we are grateful to have received additional sponsorship support from the following companies and organizations:

Future Focus Sponsors:

  • Altus Partners
  • BlueSky Power/OhmGrid
  • Hilco Redevelopment Partners/The Bellwether District
  • WPG Consulting

Building Blocks Sponsors:

  • 3859 Lancaster Ave. LLC
  • DMi Partners
  • NFP

Foundational Sponsors:

  • Atkin Olshin Schade Architects
  • CliftonLarsonAllen
  • The Flynn Group

Shout out to Mrs. Latosha, our resident event planner, for providing her services. She designed an amazing balloon arch, which added an elegant touch to the overall aesthetic of the event. Her company “Events by Latosha Lynette” also provides LED Marquee numbers (as seen below) for rent. Thank you for giving your time, talent and treasure to make this year’s celebration one to remember.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to our volunteers and everyone who was able to attend this year’s event – it was truly one for the books!

We’re already looking forward to next year!
💛💙 #GrowYB22#SturdyThirty#YB22

– YB Philly

YouthBuild Philly Host FIRST Earth Day Event with Life Do Grow Farm

This year, YouthBuild Philly commemorated the 52nd Anniversary of Earth Day by hosting our first-ever Earth Day celebration in partnership with the Life Do Grow Farm! The event took place on Friday, April 22 and shed light on the importance of  energy conservation, promoting the use of natural resources and exploring our carbon footprint in the environment.

Shoutout to Mr. George, YB Philly GreenBuild instructor, and our GreenBuild, Advanced Construction and Makerspace students for pulling together such an amazing event. With service at the core of everything we do here at YB, the theme for this year’s celebration was “Community Service for all to help the sustainability of our planet.” 

We kicked off the event by honoring the Earth in a moment of silence and reflection followed by a welcome ceremony and short introduction facilitated by Mr. George. Students, staff and volunteers then split up into multiple groups to complete the following tasks:

●      Building a cucumber trellis

●      Building garden boxes

●      Installing a micro wind turbine

●      Relocating items on the farm

●      Cleaning up light trash

Thank you to our friends over at BlueSky Power, Drexel University Writers Room, Ernst & Young LLC, Performing for Excellence, Solar Tech, and T. Savage Construction for joining us and lending a helping hand in completing the various projects. 

We are truly grateful to everyone who was able to attend and make this event a success. By taking part in activities like picking up litter and planting trees, we’re making our world a greener and healthier place to live.

Until next time, 

YB Philly  

Post MLK Day of Service Event

Amid the Omicron variant surge this past January, we chose to transition to virtual programming for a few weeks for the safety of our students and staff. As a result, we were unable to participate in any in-person MLK Day of Service activities together. We did however provide resources and encouraged our students and staff to get involved in some way on their own. 

Nevertheless, with service at the core of everything we do here at YB, we were determined to get a new date on the books!

On Friday, March 4, in an effort to honor our commitment to MLK Day, we were excited to bring our school community together for a day of service. We gathered here at YB and created various resources for the organizations that included: 

  • Art Therapy Packs
  • Hygiene Care Packs
  • Parenting Supplies 

Students were split into multiple groups according to their Graduation Pathway to Success (GPS) and stationed throughout the building. Together, we were able to fill over 250 book bags with art therapy supplies, in addition to 500 hygiene care packages and 50 parenting supply kits. We also included a thoughtful hand written note in each care package from our staff with words of encouragement. Thank you to our students and staff for their contribution to making this event a complete success. We are truly grateful for our school community and appreciate their time and dedication to providing service and much-needed resources to vulnerable communities most in need. 

Over the course of the year, all students engage in community service as part-time AmeriCorps members. In the process of changing their own lives, students drive change in their own communities and combat negative stereotypes about out-of-school youth. YB Service Days also serve as an opportunity for staff to build stronger relationships with their mentees more intimately and for students to earn the required service hours needed for graduation. 

Once the event wrapped up at noon, students and staff gathered in our community celebration room (CCR) for delicious food, great conversation, and vibrant music. Shout out to everyone who was able to participate and we look forward to seeing you at our next service day. 

Thank you, YB Philly 

Celebrating Black History Month Today and Everyday

YouthBuild’s African American students make up approximately 94% of the enrolled population. This number includes 6% of those who identify as multi-racial ethnicities. The identity that has been built around our entire student group, eludes excellence within the school and communities which we are a part of. The relationships that are built amongst our students reminds us every day that Black History is not only in the past – it is all around us and it is for everyone.

Black history is American history. A history full of endless parts and elements that are shared and carried through our current lifestyles. Lessons from our historic-past are intertwined with the way that our staff and students show care and support for one another today and every day. 

Black History runs far and wide in our world. There is not just one story to tell. YouthBuild students are young leaders who decided to not only enrich their lives and minds but the lives of the people who live amongst them as well. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words but what is history worth? “Our Future!” The students fully understand that their future is fueled by their current actions. Whether the conversation is health, wellness or academics, taking a moment to recognize Black achievements brings celebration back to our lives.

Our students are exemplars of Black History. They have proven that there is no such thing as a big or small triumph. Their limitless contributing factors include, tackling things like leadership, pioneer successes, and game-changing events. Same sacrifice, love, bravery, and determination – just a different time, name, face and individual story. Let’s celebrate overcoming struggles and pain points together. We all continue to do so in our unique lives and situations which is what keeps us all connected.

As Black History Month comes to an end, YB Philly hopes to inspire you to please carry the same understanding and inspiration with you throughout the rest of the year.

To stay up to date with YouthBuild Philly, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @YouthBuildPhl. 

-Peace, YB Philly

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: Big Teacher Love

YouthBuild’s teachers are amazing. As with the rest of the world, YouthBuild is facing increased attendance challenges in addition to unrelenting barriers preventing our students from focusing on their education. The heightened anxieties of pandemic life are coloring our culture. Within this difficult context, our teachers are shining.  

I know this because I visit their classrooms and see them warmly welcoming our students. I see them consistently offering creative and well prepared learning experiences as they develop curriculum within our innovative and evolving model. I see them maintaining positive energy. I see them celebrating their students and each other as they enjoy the beautiful moments of teaching and learning that happens daily.  

I also know our teachers are amazing because I’ve been asking students. I often talk to our  students casually about how classes are going, but last month I asked students more formally for feedback. Using a common set of questions, I checked in with nine students individually for 15 minute interviews.  I intentionally connected with students who have attended consistently, students with spotty attendance and with some who seem at home in classrooms and some who are out of their comfort zone. 

Students had rich, meaningful observations and insights to share. They offered constructive feedback and useful information about our program design. What stood out most was the respect and appreciation they felt for their teachers. They described their teachers’ strengths in unique ways that highlighted their personality and teaching style.  

Some examples include:    

  • I’ll ask her a question and she’s ready; she’s up on her game
  • “We had fun in her class without even realizing it! We were truly engaged in the topic being discussed and it made time go by faster.”
  • “He has great energy. You can feel the energy in the room.”
  • “He tries hard to make his lessons interesting! He teaches about topics that actually matter and what people will care about.”
  • “Encouraging and positive energy. She makes sure everyone understands the work first before moving onto the next assignment.” 
  • “He knows how to get us thinking and engaged on a personal level. He is great at motivating us. He is very honest and transparent with us.” 

When I think about the current state of our school and the world as a whole, I am easily overwhelmed. The challenges are real and no amount of focus on the bright side can lift the burden of the pandemic off our shoulders. But when I think about the magnificent, complex and gifted humanity of our teachers and the small but intimate interactions between them and our students that bloom each day in corners of our school, I feel grounded and hopeful.  

So, on this holiday eve, shout out to you, Christina, Erika, Ant, Pete, Roman and Jody.  

With gratitude, 

Sarah Burgess

Director of Curriculum and Instruction  

YouthBuild 2021 Thanksgiving Luncheon

Celebrating Thanksgiving as a chosen family is one of our most cherished traditions here at YouthBuild! We celebrate Thanksgiving a day early every year with a Thanksgiving lunch – prepared and served by staff – followed by a party and games.

In addition to staff and students (and students’ children), we often have great volunteers in attendance as well! This year was special, as it was our first luncheon since 2019 due to the pandemic. It was nice to bring back this annual tradition and kick off the Thanksgiving Holiday in true YouthBuild fashion.

The luncheon took place offsite at the Independence Seaport Museum – thank you so much for hosting us this year! It was a great time connecting with students and staff outside of the classroom over an amazing spread of delicious foods and vibrant music.

This year’s menu items included:

  • 6 Turkeys
  • 4 trays of Fried Chicken
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Collard Greens
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Mash Potatoes
  • Pineapple Stuffing
  • Lasagna and so much more!
  • Full desert table

Shout out to everyone who volunteered to make a dish, helped set up, clean up, and everything in between! The event would not have been possible without the help of dedicated staff members who invested their time and effort to make this year’s luncheon one to remember.

Last but certainly not least, we are truly grateful to our resident Chef Mr. Paul and in-house DJ Ms. Zuri for their work in facilitating and hosting this year’s luncheon.

Thank you to everyone who was able to celebrate with us this year!

Happy Holidays!

-YB Philly

YouthBuild Philly Launches Stomping Grounds Social Justice Café

After more than a year of planning, YouthBuild Philly is excited to announce the official grand opening of Stomping Grounds Café (SGC), YouthBuild’s first community-facing and student-led social justice coffee shop. The Café officially opened its doors to the public on Monday, Nov. 1 at 8 a.m. after holding an initial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, October 29.

The event was a complete success and was filled with fun, food and music! Special shout out to YB Philly’s very own Scott Emerick, YouthBuild Philly Executive Director, Melissa Jackson-Schmidt, YouthBuild Philly Director of Workforce and Kim Paulus, Stomping Grounds Café General Manager and YouthBuild Philly Customer Service Instructor, who led the ribbon-cutting ceremony and provided some very inspirational words of hope and appreciation.

Thank you to everyone who attended the ceremony – it was a pleasure to chat one-on-one with our new neighbors and reconnect with long-time friends of YB Philly. Guests who attended the ceremony received a free sample of SGC’s world-class banana chai latte and sweet potato pie spiced latte, followed by a student-led walk-through of the Café. The event wrapped up at 5 p.m. with a light networking session and a very impromptu photoshoot with YB staff and students.

For background, Stomping Grounds serves the community and is dedicated to ensuring that all YB Philly students, neighbors and customers, all have a place to feel welcomed and safe.  At SGC, everyone has a seat at the table!

The mission of SGC is built on the foundation of nearly 30 years of young adult training experience and more than five years of running an in-school cafe serving students, staff, and invited guests. Stomping Grounds is more than just a café – it will serve as a flexible space and classroom for YouthBuild students in its Business Administration Scholars (BAS) program.

SGC provides YouthBuild students with an authentic experiential learning opportunity via hands-on, day-to-day operation and management. SGC employment opportunities are exclusive to YBPCS alumni and current students to empower them to become self-sufficient leaders of their community and earn a living sustaining wage.

SGC will specialize in producing Italian espresso-based beverages made from beans ethically sourced, locally roasted, and handled with care by trained professionals.  Teas and other assorted beverages will be offered as well. Students will be responsible for creating and promoting specialty menu items and will work with customers to design custom-crafted beverages to suit any taste.

The Café’s hours of operation will run from 8 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday and is located in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia at 3859 Lancaster Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19104. If you’re ever in the area, please feel free to stop by for a carefully crafted coffee or tea.

YB Philly is committed to improving the lives of young people and Stomping Grounds is where the students can use their newfound skills to make change in their community. To learn more about YouthBuild Philly, please follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @YouthBuildPhl and @stompinggrounds_sjcafe on Instagram.        

-YB Philly

Support YouthBuild #TodayTomorrowandBeyond!

Dear Supporters,

On August 30, 2021, YouthBuild Philly proudly, warmly and safely welcomed an incoming class of new students back into our building for the first time since March 2020. Over the past 20 months our school community has encountered challenges that we never expected. Through it all, our staff, Board of Trustees, students and alumni proved their resilience in the face of a global pandemic and reopened a space that so many young people have considered a second home since 1992. 

Throughout the time our building was closed, we continued to REP our core values – Respect, Excellence and Perseverance – in a virtual environment, while preparing our students for a hopeful return to a new normal and more equitable future. At an outdoor ceremony in late August, 144 new high school graduates received their diplomas at a rainy Dell Music Center. Just eight days later, we welcomed our new Class of 2022 into our school for the start of Mental Toughness Training. Today, these 179 enrollees are working toward their diplomas while also laying the foundation for their futures through YouthBuild’s workforce development and service learning curriculum.

While YouthBuild prides itself on our ability to prepare young people for specific careers through these vocational tracks and college and career partnerships, we are just as proud to develop young peoples’ confidence, leadership and critical consciousness to improve their communities.  This year, we highlight two of these alumni – Kayla Mann (Class of 2017) and Douglas Pickett (Class of 2015). Both of these outstanding young people overcame barriers to find success at YouthBuild – and applied their leadership skills to branch out into new careers. We hope you enjoy learning about each of these incredible leaders.

As Kayla and Douglas’ stories demonstrate, opportunity and relationships are essential to YouthBuild, and we’re thrilled to be able to see our students again every day as we support them through challenges and celebrate their successes. This commitment to empowering our students – not only academically or professionally, but also personally and as leaders – is what makes our YouthBuild community unique and special. Hearing and seeing alumni speak confidently about their experiences, and how these experiences have helped to build that confidence, is immensely rewarding to us as staff, and we hope that it resonates with you, our supporters, as well.

Please join us this year in making a gift to YouthBuild Philly as we continue to educate, train and build confidence in young people. Your gift to YouthBuild in 2021-2022 will make an impact in the following ways:

  • continue to provide safe classrooms, worksites and service opportunities for our Class of 2022 and beyond
  • maintain the health and safety of our community as students and alumni return to our space
  • provide need-based grants for students to address urgent and on-going challenges related to housing, transportation, child care, and health care
  • focus on barrier removal to allow our students to learn, grow and shine as leaders
  • enhance our trauma-based care to support of students experiencing community violence
  • nurture students’ passions through clubs and elective courses related to their out-of-school interests
  • award scholarships for graduates choosing to attend college or trade school, helping to remove financial barriers to higher education
  • help students prepare for job interviews and new career opportunities through mock interviews, resume reviews and providing professional attire
  • improve and build staff training to respond to challenges our students face in and out of school

With support from our community and donors, YouthBuild Philly is able to provide a safe, warm and welcoming environment for our students to continue to pursue their passions and grow as leaders. Stories like Kayla’s and Douglas’ show very clearly that our commitment to our core values helps young people succeed in their professional and personal lives, and we appreciate your support of YouthBuild Philly to help create this supportive culture.

We need your support! Donations of any size make a tremendous impact on our program, and we appreciate your  financial contribution toward our program’s success. Please visit our secure donation site to make a gift today! If you have any questions about your donation or how it will be used, please contact our Individual Giving Manager Theo Molloy at

Thank you very much for your continued support of YouthBuild Philly. We wish you and your family good health, and hope to see you at a YouthBuild event when it is safe to do so.

In solidarity,

Scott Emerick

Executive Director

PS: If you’re local to West Philadelphia, we encourage you to visit YouthBuild’s new social justice cafe, Stomping Grounds, at 39th and Lancaster!

Class of 2022 Acceptance March

On Tuesday, October 19, students of the Class of 2022 took to the streets of Philadelphia to reclaim their education in YB Philly’s Annual Acceptance March!  

After being forced to cancel and reschedule the march from its original date in September, due to inclement weather and city flooding, we were excited to finally celebrate our applicants in true YouthBuild fashion. 

At the end of the march, we held an awards ceremony to commemorate the end of Session 1 and recognize the accomplishments of our student superstars! Congratulations to everyone who received an award – your hard work did not go unnoticed!

The Acceptance March and ceremony served as the final step in the YouthBuild application process before officially becoming students.  

YouthBuild Philly Annual BBQ (2021)

After more than a year of isolation and practicing social distance, YouthBuild Philly was excited for the return of its annual YB Philly BBQ. The event took place on Friday, September 24, at the historic Lemon Hill Park for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic. The BBQ traditionally is held annually at the beginning of the school year and invites staff and students to attend. The YB Philly BBQ is a special moment for YouthBuild, as it allows both students and staff to connect 1-on-1 over food, music, and fun while getting to know each other.

Special thanks to our resident Chef’s Mr. Paul and Mr. Frank, as the official grill masters for the event! Together they prepared a delicious and hearty spread of tasty eats for everyone. Menu items included beef and veggies burgers, hotdogs, a variety of potato chips, and assorted beverages.

A highlight of this year’s event was the popcorn and snow cone stations in addition to live caricature drawings. Other fun activities included double-dutch, Jumbo Jenga, connect four, football, and a friendly game of spades amongst the students and staff. From a very competitive hula hoop contest to the student vs. staff basketball game, it was truly an exciting fun-filled day!

The afternoon was topped off with a mix of live music provided by our very own in-house DJ and Director of Student Life Ms. Zuri Stone. Shout out to the Class of 2022 for showing up and showing out – It was great to see people smiling, laughing, and genuinely having a great time.

Thank you to all that were involved in making the BBQ a huge success. We are looking forward to next year’s event already.

– YB Philly!