YouthBuild Philly and Saint-Gobain Team Up to Rebuild and Give Back


Since May 2012, YouthBuild Philly students have been in the process of renovating two adjoining properties in the Nicetown section of the city, transforming previously abandoned eyesores into LEED-targeted homes for low-income residents.


Last Thursday, Saint-Gobain employees from the corporation’s King of Prussia headquarters braved near-freezing temperatures to volunteer alongside the students.  In addition to installing Saint-Gobain Corporation fencing product along the edge of the property, teams of students and volunteers worked together to frame new walls and windows and reinforce the structures’ existing brickwork.

The Nicetown properties still need several months’ worth of work before completion, but the partnership strives to support the surrounding community in the meantime as well.  In the spirit of the coming Thanksgiving holiday, Saint-Gobain employees and YouthBuild students collected canned and boxed food and brought those donations to the worksite.

The food was given to the Nicetown Community Development Corporation’s food cabinet, and will be distributed to food-insecure families in the surrounding neighborhood.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful to have partners and supporters in the Greater Philadelphia community like Saint-Gobain Corporation and its employees, who are committed to supporting our students and their efforts to improve the community.

May Volunteer of the Month: Alexandra Brown

Alexandra Brown Is the May 2014 YouthBuild Philly Volunteer of the Month!  Alexandra is studying Anthropology and Human Biology at Temple University, and has been volunteering at YouthBuild Philly since January.  All of us at YouthBuild thank her for the hours of tutoring and valuable service she’s provided at our school this year!  Below, Alexandra reflects on her time at YouthBuild so far:

ImageVolunteering at YouthBuild has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I attended after-school tutoring sessions every Tuesday and Thursday expecting to tutor students, which I did, but I always leave with new learned information. For example, I’ve learned that YouthBuild students are some of the most driven and eager students that I’ve ever witnessed. I hope that every student that I’ve worked with knows that they have all impacted me in some way.

One particular interaction was especially meaningful to me: I had been assigned to work with a specific student. Even though I was overly excited to help her with her homework, she didn’t seem to reciprocate the same feelings towards me. It took a little bit of warming up but once we broke the ice, I began to see her become more comfortable with my help and presence. Now, every time we see each other she greets me with a warm hello! It meant a lot to me that she allowed me to gain her trust. 

The time that I felt I was making the biggest difference was when I led the Interview Etiquette Workshop during Saturday School. The fact that the participating students were so engaged in the presentation really made me feel like I contributed something worthwhile to the YouthBuild community.  I am so thankful to everyone at YouthBuild for allowing me into their school and into their community. I really appreciate every single person that I’ve had the pleasure of working with! 

Interested in volunteering at YouthBuild Philly?  Learn more 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

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!

Bon Appétit! (Interview with Kerry & Tiffany, YB Volunteers)

One of the most popular extracurricular clubs offered at YouthBuild is Cooking Club.  Every Wednesday during lunch, students prepare healthy meals using fresh ingredients. In the process, they learn about new foods and different cooking techniques.   The success of this club is owed to our creative and dependable YB volunteers, Ms. Kerry and Ms. Tiffany. Both women are very dedicated to their volunteer role and enjoy teaching students how to cook healthy meals.  YouthBuild AmeriCorps member Latrice Jones recently interviewed both volunteers to learn more about their interest in cooking, and why they chose to donate their time to activities at YouthBuild:

Q:Why do you like/love to cook?photo 3 (2)

Ms. Kerry: My husband taught me to love good and healthy food.  He is an organic farmer at Greens Grow Farm in Fish town, and he is always bringing home beautiful vegetables and cooking me delicious meals.  I grew up eating a lot of fast meals made out of things you can buy in a box or a can at the grocery store, but he has shown me how much fun – and how much more delicious – it is to cook with fresh vegetables.  Now we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together and have friends over all the time to share in our culinary creations.

Q: What is your favorite food (meal or ingredient) to cook?

Ms. Kerry: I absolutely love arugula.  It is a small leafy green that looks a little bit like lettuce but has a peppery flavor to it. Arugula is such a versatile food, and I would eat it every day, especially if it comes fresh out of the garden.  It is extremely easy to grow even in a large pot on the back patio!

Ms. Tiffany: I love to cook simply.  Cooking on the grill is one my favorites!  I especially love to cook pizzas on the grill!  Even if I don’t have fresh dough, I use brown rice tortillas or English Muffins as the base topped with my favorite ingredients and fire up the grill.  An economical, satisfying meal is ready in a matter of minutes with very little clean-up required….Success!

Q: What do you enjoy most about the cooking club at YouthBuild?photo

Ms. Kerry: I love helping the students make something new that they might have never heard of before and then watching so many of them taste their creations and really enjoy them.  We have made black bean burgers, pizza with potatoes on it, and lots of crazy healthy drinks, all things that made the students say “What?” at first.  But in the end, after putting in a lot of work, they end up really liking the food they have produced.  They take pride in what they have made in just 45 minutes, and they have such good spirits.  The YouthBuild cooking club students are up for anything!

Ms.: Tiffany: According to the great cooking genius, Julia Child, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Although my home kitchen has turned into an episode of America’s Test Kitchen these days in preparing for Wednesday’s dishes and beverages (e.g. disguising vegetables in chocolate, baking chicken in yogurt, making salad dressing out of tofu, drinking the water used to cook rice, etc.), which has been an interesting experience in itself, I most enjoy, however, interacting with the students and their skeptical but open attitudes to many of these sometimes unique dishes we prepare together.

Q: What made you volunteer at YB?

Ms. Kerry: I think YouthBuild is playing such a unique and valuable role for students in Philadelphia.  By helping students earn their high school diplomas, begin working, or succeed in their first years of college, YouthBuild is partnering with students not simply for a year, but really for a lifetime.  I am so proud of the students and the faculty at YouthBuild and love playing my little part.

Ms. Tiffany: I have been volunteering at YouthBuild as a tutor, since October 20photo 1 (1)11. As a person who wholeheartedly believes in giving back for the blessings that one has in life, volunteering is a major part of my life.   I applied to volunteer at YouthBuild because I believed in their mission of not only helping low-income youth rebuild their lives but the lives of their communities.

Bonus Question: What is your favorite kitchen gadget?

Ms. Kerry: I just discovered this a few years ago, but I am addicted to the immersion blender.  Normal blenders can be so messy and hard to clean, but an immersion blender fits neatly into a pot of boiling vegetables or a bowl of fruit or a glass of ice cream, and in seconds you have smooth and tasty soup, smoothie, or milkshake.  And it is so easy to clean!  I love it!

Ms. Tiffany: Simply put…my favorite kitchen gadget is the wooden spoon for me to “taste” all of the dishes that are prepared…a genius invention!

Interested in volunteering at YouthBuild Philly?  Contact volunteer coordinator Natalie Husick to learn more about our range of volunteer opportunities,  from homework help to coordinating extracurriculars.  

MLK Day 2013: YouthBuild Philly Gives Longstreth Elementary an Extreme School Makeover!

Note: Stay tuned for student accounts and reflections on this year’s day of service!

For many in the U.S., Martin Luther King Day is thought of as a day off from school or work. At YouthBuild Philly, however, it’s one of our biggest days on. Service in the community is a core element of YouthBuild Philly’s program, and we were excited to partner with the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service again this year by hosting several projects at W.C. Longstreth Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia.

Painting in the cafeteriaMore than 200 YouthBuild students, staff and volunteers came together on Monday, Jan 21 to repaint the school’s cafeteria, stairwells, hallways and library. Volunteers painted over the cafeteria’s dull white walls, dreary dark green doors and old, fading Sesame Street characters.  These were replaced with a vibrant sky-blue background, inspirational quotes and illustrations, and positive affirmations about the school community.

Health screeningsMeanwhile, inside the school classrooms, other teams carried out service projects to serve greater Philadelphia. One team made literacy kits for young learners, while in another classroom volunteers decorated reused t-shirts with messages about sexual abuse for the Clothesline Project. Using clothes and toiletries donated by YouthBuild supporters, another team assembled care packages for shelter residents at Project H.O.M.E. and Bethesda Project.  Several volunteers also made no-sew fleece blankets to donate.  We invited Longstreth students and neighborhood residents to attend the event, which included free health screenings for the public administered by YouthBuild students in the Healthcare training track.

Cleaning the Point Breeze playgroundSome YouthBuild students and staff braved the below-freezing temperatures to participate in a special project at 20th and Tasker in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philly.  As part of an ongoing partnership with  ACE Mentoring and Urban Roots, students collected over thirty bags of trash and helped to repaint a hopscotch court at Ralph Brooks Park, a neighborhood playground and basketball court.  This service was a part of an ongoing three-month long collaboration in which YouthBuild students learn from political representatives, community organizers, developers, and city planners about the park revitalization process.

Greg "Just Greg" CorbinFollowing the morning of service, students and neighborhood residents gathered in the Longstreth gym for a performance showcase featuring spoken word performances by YouthBuild students and local poets such as Lyrispect and Greg “Just Greg” Corbin, as well performances by local artists Fese, DollarBoyz and Yazz The Greatest.

We’re so grateful to everyone who partnered with us on this day of service, including our Young Friends, volunteers from DMi Partners, and bottled water company CerebellumH2O. For more pictures from the day, click the gallery below – and follow us on Facebook  for even more photos, as well as future updates and pictures from our program and service projects!

Students to Help Rehabilitate Historical Building for MLK Day of Service

In honor of Philadelphia’s 17th Annual MLK Day of Service, YouthBuild Philly will help rehabilitate a training facility for Opport-UNITY. Over 200 YouthBuild Philly students, staff and volunteers will join Opport-UNITY, a local organization offering construction training to ex-offenders and people in addiction recovery, on Monday, January 16.

The new training facility will be located at the historical Engine Company No.11 building on South Street. Prior to the desegregation of the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1952, Engine 11 was Philadelphia’s de facto African American firehouse.  YouthBuild Philadelphia will work with staff and students from Opport-UNITY to complete an ongoing rehabilitation process by cleaning and painting The Willie G. Williams Multipurpose Center, an approximately 10,000 sq. ft. building.

If you are interested in working on this project with the Young Friends of YouthBuild Philly on MLK Day, please sign-up to volunteer here.


Date and time: Monday, January 16, 2012,  9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Location: The Willie G. Williams Mutlipurpose Center (Engine Company No. 11
1016-18 South St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
Click for map and street view

Contact: Kristen Forbriger,

Transformation Interviews: Volunteers Help Students Prepare for Next Steps

Over 75 volunteers participated in the 2011 Transformation Interviews, YouthBuild Philadelphia’s capstone project, to help students formally demonstrate their readiness to transition to post-secondary education and careers. Volunteers joined staff members for the panel interviews, and asked students to reflect on their time at YouthBuild and discuss personal strengths, skills, and goals.

Transformation Interviews were held June 7-10, but students began preparing months in advance through a special course and Saturday School practice sessions.  The process was designed to prepare students for a real world interview, and improve professionalism and public speaking skills.

Sierra Pugh, Class of 2011

“In the Transformation Interview class, I learned how to dress appropriately, have eye contact, and speak loudly and clearly,” said student Sierra Pugh. “The questions in the final interview got me ready for my next interview for a job.”

Volunteers from the Young Friends of YouthBuild, and the Junior League of Philadelphia helped students prepare through one-on-one interviews and practice panels during Saturday School in April and May.

“Volunteers are a critical part of the Transformation Interview process because they provide feedback to students from outside our YouthBuild world,” said Maggie Larson, YouthBuild’s Community Projects Coordinator responsible for overseeing Transformation Interviews. “‘Students are asked to step outside their comfort zone and engage with our volunteers in ways that foster connections and provide invaluable communication and interview experience with working professionals.”

Photos from the practice sessions:

Learn about volunteer opportunities at YouthBuild and sign-up here!

Volunteers needed for Transformation Interviews: June 8-10

YouthBuild is looking for volunteers to participate in Transformation Interviews, YouthBuild Philadelphia’s capstone project. In the panel interview, students are asked to reflect on their time at YouthBuild, discuss their transformation as a student and young adult, and demonstrate readiness to go on to post-secondary education or careers.

Panels are comprised of teachers, other YouthBuild staff and volunteers. The Panel members will ask probing questions encouraging students to reflect on their experiences and clearly articulate their ideas, as well as prepare students for job and college interviews. Volunteers play a critical role as the relatively unfamiliar face and voice for the students — providing student’s with feedback from outside the YouthBuild world and pushing students to explain their transformation to a new audience.

Volunteers (over 18) need minimal interview/presentation experience, and a brief training will be provided prior to your first panel. This is also a great opportunity for members of organizations or corporations to volunteer as a group!

Volunteers are needed for each session, morning (8:30-11:30 am) and afternoon (12:30-3:30), June 8, 9, 10.

You can sign up online here or contact Volunteer Coordinator Rory Katz at

Volunteer: Join our Transformation Interview Panels

YouthBuild Philadelphia is looking for volunteers to sit on our Transformation Interview Panels to help assess students’ YouthBuild journeys.

Prior to graduating, students are asked to reflect on their overall YouthBuild experience through a formal interview session.. Volunteers will participate in an interview panel alongside YouthBuild staff in order to evaluate student presentations and public speaking skills.

Volunteers are asked to sign up for one or more of the following half day shifts:

Wednesday, June 9 – 8:00am-12:30pm or 12:30-3:30pm
Thursday, June 10 – 8:00am-12:30pm or 12:30-3:30pm

To join a panel, fill out a brief Volunteer application online or contact Lauren Fitzgerald by email or at 215-627-8671 ext. 51.

Interested in volunteering but can’t make it to Transformation Interviews?  Contact Lauren or read more about volunteer opportunities here.

Join our Transformation Interview Panels

YouthBuild Philadelphia is looking for volunteers to sit on student Transformation Interview Panels.  Prior to graduating, students are required to complete this formal Q&A session to discuss their YouthBuild experience. They will reflect on their overall YouthBuild journey by describing: (1) Specific skills and lessons learned in each core YouthBuild area: Academics, Service Learning, Transition, Personal Growth, and Vocation (2) How the student can apply what he/she has learned in post-secondary plans (3) The long-term impact and importance of the student’s learning.

Volunteers will participate in an oral question and answer session alongside YouthBuild staff in order to evaluate students based on: (1) Depth and content of response in each core area (2) Formal presentation skills, including eye contact, body language, fluency, and pace (3) Overall preparation.

We would like volunteers to join us for practice interviews on Wednesday, March 17 and Thursday, March 18.  Volunteers will be asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to the first interview in order to attend a short orientation and training.  If your schedule allows for only a short period of time, we appreciate your assistance and would love to work with you to develop a personalized schedule. Also, if you would like to volunteer for an entire day, it would be greatly appreciated!

Please contact Lauren Fitzgerald by email or phone at 215.627.8671 ext. 51 to reserve a spot on a panel today!