MLK Day 2016 – Murals, School Improvement, Neighborhood Service, and Partnerships

For YouthBuild students and staff – and thousands of other Philadelphians – MLK Day represents a day of service and reflection rather than a day off.  This year, our school community spent Monday engaged in two ambitious service projects in North Philadelphia – one at Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy (a K-8 public school) and another at our Nicetown worksite and the Nicetown CDC headquarters.

At the end of the day we had repainted the Nicetown CDC walls, created over 40 original murals in the hallways at Dr. Ethel Allen, and made dozens of blankets and literacy packets for pre-K students.  We also made great headway at our worksite in Nicetown, where Building Trades students are close to completing the full-gut rehabilitation of two formerly vacant rowhomes.

We are proud of our students for the powerful community impact that achieve year-round, but yesterday was particularly impressive.  We owe great thanks to the volunteers from DMi Partners, Saint-Gobain North America, Starbucks, VILLA, and TD Bank who worked alongside us to affect change in Philadelphia!

Read on for details and pictures:

Transforming Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy

This year’s signature MLK Day project took place at Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy, a K-8 public elementary school in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Except for a few bulletin boards, the school’s hallways were previously bare and did not reflect the school community’s creativity, ambition, and passion for learning.  YouthBuild Philly offered to add several murals, and the school’s principal agreed to open the school as a service site on MLK Day.  In just a few hours, many well-organized teams of students, staff and volunteers painted over 40 murals in the two-story school.  Take a look at these before (left) and after (right) shots:

 

And click through to see the activity in process:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A YouthBuild Tradition of School Transformation

This marks the fourth year that YouthBuild has contributed supplies and person-power to a school transformation project on MLK Day.  In past years, we have planned and executed school makeovers at Longstreth Elementary, Morton Elementary, and McMichael Elementary.  Our students are passionate about giving back to local schools – including the ones they attended as children – so that the next generation of students will have greater opportunities thanks to a safe and supportive learning environment.

IMG_0977

Service in Nicetown

YouthBuild Philly organized a second service site at the Wingohocking St. worksite and at the nearby Nicetown Community Development Corporation offices.  Nicetown CDC owns the two Wingohocking St. rowhomes under renovation by YouthBuild students.  On MLK Day, students worked with Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed volunteers to hang drywall in both rowhomes, and volunteers from DMi Partners provided tech support and painting assistance to Nicetown CDC.

Partners Make it Possible

This year’s projects added up to a rather ambitious undertaking, one which would not have been successful without volunteer support from VILLA, Saint-Gobain North America, DMi Partners, and TD Bank.  Saint-Gobain and DMi sent volunteers to both project sites – and VILLA and Saint-Gobain provided financial support for supplies and food.  Along with service, teamwork is one of the central tenets of YouthBuild’s model, and we’re so glad to have partners who embody that quality and are willing to work with our students as they rebuild their lives and their community.  To all of our supporters — thank you!

1004972_10152162482064916_1829014798_n

New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve Job Prospects for Young Adults

YouthBuild Philly is proud to be a core partner in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work initiative. Philadelphia has been named one of five cities to receive a four-year grant to improve employment opportunities for young adults.

This work is strongly aligned with our vision of improving opportunities for young people across the city. We look forward to all the collaboration ahead with AECF, JOIN Collaborative, 1199C Training Fund and Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc. – and the many stakeholders this project will engage – to address youth unemployment in Philadelphia and beyond.

Read on for the full release:

New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve   Job Prospects for Young Adults

Nearly $1 Million to be Awarded Over Four Years to Strengthen the Next Generation of Workers and Meet Employer Demand

PHILADELPHIA — The Annie E. Casey Foundation announced today that it will award $6 million in grants over the next four years to increase job opportunities for America’s young adults in five cities, enabling them to begin building careers and develop the skills employers need. Nearly $1 million will be invested in Philadelphia through a new, nimble, initiative called Generation Work.

Generation Work will bring the best efforts of employers, funders, policymakers and practitioners together to match training and education with the skills needed in the workplace. This project leverages the collective expertise of four nationally-recognized core partners in Philadelphia — the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), Philadelphia Youth Network, YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, and District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund – and connects Philadelphia to a national learning community for four years of investment by the Casey Foundation in building the infrastructure needed to get more young adults working.

“Our future workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets, and we cannot compete globally unless it is strong,” said Allison Gerber, a senior associate who oversees the Casey Foundation’s investments in improving job opportunities for low-income individuals and families. “The next generation is eager to work, but we must create more avenues for young adults to develop the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in the job market.”

While the Great Recession hit many hard, teens and young adults have experienced the most drastic drop in employment, data shows. In Philadelphia the need for action and change is urgent; nearly one in five young Philadelphians is disconnected – out of work and out of school. Across the country, millions of young people — particularly young people of color and from low-income families — face obstacles to employment or education, and the percentage of young people ages 18–29 in the job market has steadily declined in recent years. At the same time, employers often struggle to find workers with the right set of skills for available positions.

Generation Work aims to combine building relationships with businesses, factoring in their needs in the local economy, with youth development strategies to prepare young people for work, such as mentoring and on-the-job learning opportunities.

“Through Generation Work, we aim to transform Philadelphia’s skill development landscape so that all young adults (18-29) have access to relevant, engaging careers and employers have access to strong, productive talent pipelines,” said Jennie Sparandara, Director of JOIN.

“We can only do this through partnerships with employers, funders, practitioners and policymakers that share the same commitment to strengthening our workforce,” added Jim Cawley, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), the managing partner of the JOIN funders collaborative.”

Philadelphia was selected for funding because it has demonstrated a promising approach to young adult employment, with a particular focus on those facing some of the greatest obstacles to getting a job; the ability to effectively implement services for young job seekers and employers; and the potential to help foster broader uptake of their approaches in their respective geographic areas, among other strengths.

“Partnership is the key to success when it comes to aligning all of our best strategies, citywide, to ensure young Philadelphians are able to reach the next level in their professional and personal goals,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network. “We are able to reach higher, and achieve greater results when we grow together as a team. I look forward to working with 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, YouthBuild and other leaders to combine our collective efforts and systemic tools to expand opportunity so that access to employment and education are no longer hurdles to jump, but doors to open.”

JOIN, housed and managed by UWGPSNJ, will serve as the grant manager. The Foundation’s award will be used in the first year to engage key stakeholders and plan the implementation and evaluation of strategies to increase young adults’ access to job opportunities. Funding in subsequent years will support  documenting the impact of their efforts and promoting the use of these strategies on a broad scale in the public, private and nonprofit sector.

###

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) is a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers that develops and supports innovative efforts to eliminate the mismatch between the level of skill required for high growth jobs and the much lower skill level of many working age Philadelphians. JOIN is housed and managed by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. For more information, visit www.joincollaborative.org.

The Philadelphia Youth Network is an intermediary organization dedicated to equipping young people with the skills necessary to accomplish academic achievement, economic opportunity and personal success. To succeed in this mission, we bring together cross-sector partners from around the city to expand access to services for underserved youth and young adults ages 12-24. For more information, visit www.pyninc.org

District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund – District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, a labor management partnership comprised of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees AFSCME and 50 healthcare employers, serves as a healthcare workforce intermediary and an educational institution. Since its creation in 1974, the Training Fund has built the capacity of the Delaware Valley’s healthcare industry to create a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training opportunities and the development of an education pipeline of skilled talent that matches the workforce needs of Delaware Valley healthcare employers. For more information visit www.1199ctraining.org/

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School – The mission of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is to provide out-of-school youth in Philadelphia with the broadest range of tools, supports and opportunities available to become self-sufficient, responsible and productive citizens in their community. The first year of our program offers high school dropouts a second chance to earn their diplomas while developing vital job skills through rigorous academics, vocational training and community service; the second year supports them towards success in employment or postsecondary education. Learn more at http://www.youthbuildphilly.org/

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

YouthBuild Philly highlighted in national service/education report

Last month, America’s Promise Alliance released a report on The Role of National Service in Closing the Graduation Gap.”  This report coincided with the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, which since 1994 has connected volunteers to community needs, including educational attainment and access to quality education.

Much of the report focuses on how outside volunteers have helped students succeed in US schools and increased the national graduation rate. However, the report also pointed out that community service and volunteering can help older students stay motivated and connected to their school through a renewed sense of self and purpose.  The report highlighted YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild Philly in particular, incorporating quotes from Simran Sidhu and Dorothy Stoneman on why service is a cornerstone of the YouthBuild model:

“Providing service in communities, making a difference, producing something of value has a profound influence on self-respect, identity and the career choices young people make — especially when they are in a group that has been considered worthless. For young men of color, it has  a huge impact to be visible on the street doing something positive and tangible for  their community — building affordable housing for their own neighborhoods.”

– Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO, YouthBuild USA

“This kind of tangible service changes our students’ relationship with the community so that they go from being the problem to being the problem-solvers.  Our students wear their hard hats and tool belts because they want to be seen in them.  they’re so proud. ”

– Simran Sidhu, Executive Director, YouthBuild Philly

 

The report also noted that youth who volunteer are more likely to find employment and less likely to disconnect.  Studies of YouthBuild programs, also summarized in the report, found that members who completed a year of AmeriCorps service were twice as likely to go to college as those who did not complete the year, and five times more likely to attend college than non-AmeriCorps members.  There’s a lot to gain by giving back.

IMG_0977

Read the summary and full report here.

YouthBuildStudent Honored for National Service in Citywide Ceremony

66820_10151535129269916_330622103_nEarlier this year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced to his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors that April 9, 2013 would mark the first-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service in cities across the country. This celebration – led by Mayor Nutter as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – was envisioned as a way for mayors to highlight the impact of national service being done by citizens, AmeriCorps members, and SeniorCorps members in their community. (Click here to watch Mayor Nutter discuss the Day of Recognition on MSNBC’s Morning Joe – jump to 00:59 for the interview).

YouthBuild Philly provided the location for the Mayor’s celebration in Philadelphia, organized by the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. The highlight of the ceremony featured the announcement of Mayor’s Awards for Distinguished Service, recognizing AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps members and alumni in Philadelphia for their commitment to serving their community.

We were excited to nominate YouthBuild student and AmeriCorps member Dominique Brown. Community Projects Coordinator (and full-time AmeriCorps member) Zuri Stone wrote Dominique’s nomination letter, noting that

552657_10151535127974916_840263773_n
Zuri and Dominique

Dominique’s long term goal is to go to college and become a social worker. Her life experiences and service involvement have transformed her into a caring person, with a passion now to make sure no child goes through what she has gone through and that no struggling individual is left to fend for themselves…

…The thing about Dominique that further distinguishes her from others that are doing service often is her inquisitiveness. There is a curiosity in her mind to not only help others, but to understand the deeper meaning behind the issues themselves. She never accepts her service as a shallow one-time event, rather she inquires on the history of those she works with as well as the root of the issues they are facing. After attending the AIDS Walk with YouthBuild, she later suggested that we support more walks and eventually she help us coordinate our participation in the Alzheimer’s Walk.

There is no doubt in my mind that Dominique is the most deserving candidate for this award. She is taking her life experiences and transforming them into a positive movement to help her community. It has been an honor to know Dominique as a student and I cannot wait to see her growth into a college campus activist and furthermore into a personal activist for each and every one of her clients as a social worker.

Dominique was selected as an outstanding nominee by the award committee, and had the opportunity to meet high-profile champions of national service – U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer (who, in her remarks, called Philadelphia the “City of National Service Love.” We hope the nickname sticks!), Deputy Mayor and Managing Director Richard Negrin, and, of course, Mayor Nutter.

548916_10151535129739916_525785131_nAt the end of the ceremony, Mayor Nutter announced the final award-winners, and Dominique received the Mayor’s Award for Distinguished National Service!

We’d like to congratulate Dominique on her well-deserved award, as well as the other winners and outstanding nominees. We thank Mayor Nutter for his commitment to service and leadership in instituting the Mayors Day of Recognition, and thank the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service for organizing this event! Service is at the core of YouthBuild’s program and values, and we were honored to help host a ceremony recognizing service and its best exemplars at our school!

Check out our Facebook photo album for more photos from this exciting day!

YouthBuild student goes to Chicago for National Conference on Volunteering and Service

Class of 2012 student Tahir Ingram (who you may remember from this Q&A back in October)  has received a First Place recognition for the YouthBuild AmeriCorps Award for Outstanding Community Service.  This award identifies students from YouthBuild programs across the country who have excelled in their service as AmeriCorps members during their time as YouthBuild students.  As a first place winner of the award, Tahir was able to attend the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago, Il from June 18 to 20.

“The panel felt that Tahir embodies a commitment to service, shows a willingness to take initiative and go above and beyond what is expected, and, through his actions, has a clear positive impact on his program and his community,” said Jill Graham, the AmeriCorps Portfolio Manager for YouthBuild USA, which serves as an intermediary for AmeriCorps and other funding to YouthBuild programs nationwide.

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is an alternative education program for former high school dropouts.  In addition to the school’s academic and vocational training requirements, students must also complete at least 675 hours of volunteer service as AmeriCorps members in order to graduate.  Upon completion of their service hours, students are eligible for an AmeriCorps education award of $2,100 towards their education after YouthBuild.

Tahir and his squad leader, Jose

Tahir, 20, will graduate in August having completed the school’s academic and vocational training requirements, as well as more than 1,000 hours of volunteer service. His service in Philadelphia has included time spent volunteering as a coach for a youth gymnastics program and at local hunger relief organization Philabundance; additionally, Tahir was selected along with other YouthBuild Philadelphia students earlier in the year to be part of a service learning trip to Utuado, Puerto Rico where the group cleared trails for an organic coffee farm.  He enjoyed attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this week with other volunteers from around the country and “being around people with a similar drive and aspiration.”

Tahir and classmates at Philabundance

“I like to help people and feel like I’m making a difference,” said Tahir, noting that he’d been volunteering in Philadelphia prior to attending YouthBuild.  His service sites and fellow volunteers “felt like a family” to him.  He plans to attend Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, Pa in the fall, where he will study architecture.  In addition to focusing on his studies, he hopes to be involved at Thaddeus Stevens in student leadership, peer tutoring, and other campus activities.

GreenBuild Groundbreaking on Greene Street

YouthBuild USA President and Founder Dorothy Stoneman thanks our partners

YouthBuild Philadelphia hosted a groundbreaking event to to launch the national partnership between YouthBuild USA, Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, and its North American subsidiary CertainTeed. As part of the partnership, YouthBuild Philadelphia will receive $100,000 in pass-through grants over the next three years to engage students in learning green building techniques and build energy-efficient affordable housing.

The event at YouthBuild’s new GreenBuild project on Greene St. in Germantown kicked off with the YouthBuild Philadelphia Student Pledge, led by students Sean Humphrey, Amir Johnson, Jasmine Myers, Kenneth Watkins, Kahnyqua Weems, and Jermaine Williams.

Executive Director Simran Sidhu acted as Master of Ceremony for a full roster of speakers, including:

Student Speakers, Lamar Lincoln and Amber Allen
  • Gilles Colas, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain
Student Donnell Simmons and YouthBuild Philadelphia Board member Check Esser

Over 200 YouthBuild Philadelphia students and staff joined friends — including partners from Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the  Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, Community College of Philadelphia, and CareerLink — to celebrate the groundbreaking of the rehabilitation project.

The long-vacant, dilapidated property will be transformed into an energy efficient two-family home for a first-time homebuyer. Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed will be providing energy-efficient products, building science, technical expertise, and employee volunteers  to support the project, which will work toward LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.

Watch a video of highlights from the event:

Online Media Coverage:
Philly.com, A greening on Greene Street
NewsWorks (WHYY), Blight goes green on Greene Street

Pepsi Refresh Blog features YouthBuild Philadelphia

Liz Dwyer, Education Ambassador for the Pepsi Refresh Project, recently spoke to YouthBuild Philadelphia Executive Director Simran Sidhu for a feature on the Refresh Blog.  She writes:

Although YouthBuild Philadelphia focuses on providing an emotionally supportive and academically rigorous program, Sidhu also wants students to have a broadening experience. To that end, the program ensures students participate in both local and international service opportunities. Last year the school sent several students to Guatemala to construct housing and in March, thirty students [and staff] head to Costa Rica for an environmental project where they’ll be moving turtle eggs to safety at night. Sidhu says the youth don’t see the trips as work. ‘You have to understand,’ she says, ‘many are students who… never mind leaving the city or country, they’ve not left their neighborhoods in a long time.’

The Pepsi Refresh project is a an effort to foster ideas and innovation that will make a positive impact on our communities. It will award more than $20 million to fund individuals and organizations through grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 over the next year.

Pepsi Refresh Blog: Building a New Future in Philly

Mayor Nutter Shout-out to Alumni Zurrell Toney

On Thursday, March 4, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter delivered his annual Budget Address, “Fighting for Philadelphia: A Safer, Smarter and More Sustainable Future” before City Council, and he gave special recognition to our 2009 valedictorian, Zurrell Toney:

Across the city, thousands of Philadelphians are acting in partnership with their government, giving back to communities, volunteering in town watch, mentoring a child, spending time at hospitals, recreation centers and much more.

Each one is living the ideal of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection … Philadelphia, The City of Service.

There’s Zurrell Toney, a high school dropout who became an AmeriCorps volunteer logging more than 900 hours rebuilding homes for low-income families.

I met him at his graduation from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School where he was the valedictorian. He’s now in college with dreams of owning a business. Please recognize Zurrell.”  (Full text)

Zurrell is currently earning high marks at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and recently stepped into a leadership role in his business class for a semester long group project.  Congratulations Zurrell!

A long time supporter of YouthBuild Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter keynoted our 2009 commencement ceremony, and we are proud to call him a member of the YouthBuild family!

Watch the video of the Mayor’s Budget Address at cbs3.com (shout-out at 13:20)