#TBT – Visiting the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Last week, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture celebrated their 1,000,000th visitor since opening in late September 2016. We’re pleased that YouthBuild students were among the first million to attend, thanks to a December field trip to Washington, D.C.

Here’s a recap of the trip, as told through our Instagram. Many of our students have told us they’re already planning a return trip to the museum!

We made it to D.C.! Next stop @nmaahc #apeoplesjourney

A post shared by YouthBuild Philly (@youthbuildphl) on

#apeoplesjourney #wiltchamberlain #jesseowens #joelouis

A post shared by YouthBuild Philly (@youthbuildphl) on

Getting ready to enter the history galleries at @nmaahc… #apeoplesjourney

A post shared by YouthBuild Philly (@youthbuildphl) on

Heading back home to Philly! This was an amazing day. #apeoplesjourney #nationalmuseumofafricanamericanhistoryandculture

A post shared by YouthBuild Philly (@youthbuildphl) on


Meet Scott Emerick, YouthBuild Philly’s New Executive Director

Following an extensive and thorough search, the Board of Directors of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is excited to announce that Scott Emerick will be the organization’s new Executive Director, beginning mid-February.

Scott is already familiar with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School’s mission, program and staff through his previous role as Senior Vice President of Education and Career Pathways at YouthBuild USA. During eight years of effective leadership in the YouthBuild movement, Scott has demonstrated his commitment to the YouthBuild mission of providing opportunities and supports to opportunity youth. The impact of his commitment is evident in the numerous program initiatives that flourished under his leadership across the country and internationally, including efforts to expand career pathways, improve postsecondary access & success, respond to learning differences and promote STEM learning and career opportunities.

Scott (right) with YouthBuild alumni on Capitol Hill for an advocacy day.

“Scott’s passion for innovation in young adult education and career development makes him a great match for YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School,” said Khalilah Lawson, a YouthBuild Philadelphia board member. “We are confident that he will continue to build on our work of transforming young people’s lives through meaningful opportunities and comprehensive supports.”

Scott’s leadership record includes collaboration with major corporations and foundations, and coalition-building to improve educational opportunities and build career pathways for young adults. He also has professional experience as an educator, as an advocate for improved teaching and learning conditions, and as a management consultant for corporate and private foundation clients investing in education.

Scott (in red) with YouthBuild graduates and postsecondary education initiative members at a service project in Portland, Oregon.

“I am thrilled and humbled to join such a dedicated, diverse, and talented team of staff, Board members, graduates, and learners at YouthBuild Philly. I am deeply committed to collaborating with all of the school’s leaders, partners and funders to advance our shared agenda of empowering young adults to learn and lead in Philadelphia,” said Scott.

Scott has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Alumni Success Story: How Felicia Learned to Exceed Expectations

“Just hearing the word ‘alumni’ makes me happy,” says Felicia. Felicia received her high school diploma from YouthBuild Philly in August 2016, graduating with honors and an award for exceptional attendance.


Before enrolling at YouthBuild, Felicia spent two years out of school after being kicked out for her behavior. Being out of school didn’t sit well with her. “Everything seemed ok, but it wasn’t. I’m not the type to sit around and not be doing much. I kept wondering, ‘what am I doing?’ It was a sad feeling – a depressing feeling, actually,” she says.

Felicia learned about YouthBuild from a family member who had already graduated from the program and told her, “that school has me doing something with my life. I know it’s going to set you back on track.”


After getting into YouthBuild, Felicia enrolled in the Business Administration Scholars job training track, which offers certifications in computer skills, customer service, and food handling. Her Customer Service Excellence Training certification and ServSafe certification helped her out when she started applying to jobs during the summer. When she interviewed at a Starbucks store, the manager noted that her ServSafe was a rare and useful qualification. “He knew I was ready to start on bar or handle any health requirements,” Felicia explained.  She got the job just before her graduation date, and has been working full-time since then.

In addition to providing the skills training she needed for employment, coming to YouthBuild also gave Felicia a place where she could grow personally. Her favorite part of being a YouthBuild student was participating in school community meetings, where she learned from staff and peers how to stay motivated and support each other.  Her teachers in the Business Administration program coached her to have confidence and avoid distractions.


“Now I know I don’t always have to be what people expect me to be. I can be more.” She said her favorite academic project was completing the year-end “digital portfolio” requirement, which showcased all of her accomplishments and pushed her to reflect on her growth.


To Felicia, the best part of YouthBuild’s program is the year of follow-up services she is currently receiving after earning her diploma. “You didn’t let us drift off after getting our diploma,” she said. “You made sure we have what we need to be successful.”
Thanks to YouthBuild and a stable job at Starbucks, Felicia can now set her sights on higher education. Her ultimate career goal is to be a lawyer – a dream she has had since she was six years old.

Alumni Success Story: How Daniel, Class of 2016, came out of his shell

At the animal shelter where Daniel is now an intern, they call him “the Cat Whisperer,” because he uses patience and perseverance to help the cats acclimate to humans – which then helps the animals find a permanent home.

Daniel graduated from Youthbuild Philadelphia Charter School in August 2016. Through YouthBuild, he found an internship at an organization called Hand2Paw that connects young adults to animal shelters.  Daniel now works thirty hours a week in two different shelters – the local SCPA, and the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society.

YouthBuild’s Postsecondary Career Development team helped Daniel land the internship, putting him through mock interviews and counseling him on career decision making. He is now considering pursuing a career in animal care, or in business. Either way, he is planning to go to college next – an option he dismissed as a “fantasy” before coming to YouthBuild – and currently enrolled in a pre-college program with the Community College of Philadelphia.

daniel2Coming to YouthBuild helped Daniel “come out of my shell,” as he puts it. He describes YouthBuild as “not a regular school,” primarily because of the number of staff that he felt he could confide in as he learned to manage the anxiety and stress that previously kept him out of school.  He credits the caring teachers and skilled counseling staff with helping him build self-knowledge and coping skills. Daniel demonstrated the extent of his outstanding self-development when he delivered a speech at his graduation to a packed room of 800 people.  He also starred in a local news story about YouthBuild’s student-run cafe.

Additionally, being a student in the Business Administration track helped Daniel with his interaction skills as he learned the fundamentals of good customer service and teamwork. Daniel put these people skills to work in his on-the-job training at a furniture store, and while providing service to his community through volunteering at a soup kitchen and working alongside strangers to make boxes of books for prisoners.

In fact, service proved to be Daniels’ favorite part of the YouthBuild model. “I never thought that in this city there were good things that you could do,” he explains. Finding opportunities to volunteer encouraged Daniel to spend more time out in his community. Suddenly, he says, “I felt like I had a purpose.”

danielDaniel was out of school for four years, cycling in and out of online and alternative programs, before finally finding the right fit at YouthBuild.  One of his main concerns when coming back to school was how he would support himself if he was in school and not working. Fortunately, Daniel benefited from being in the Department of Labor-funded REACH program at YouthBuild, which paid him for every day that he spent in class or vocational training. This enabled him to focus on coming to school – so much so that he won an “exceptional attendance” award at graduation.

Daniel has recommended YouthBuild to several friends already. “It makes you a better person in a short period of time,” he says.

Student Food Pantry Opens at YouthBuild!

Last month, students in our Business Administration & Customer Service track opened an in-house food pantry, which provides free food to eligible students. Most of our students live in low-income households and many face food insecurity, which negatively affects their health and their education. Our Case Management team helped with the creation of this valuable resource, and with identifying eligible students.
Items in the pantry range from dairy products and other refrigerated or frozen goods, as well as canned foods,fruit juices,and other non-perishable goods.
Our Business Administration students have experience with food bank operations from volunteering at Share Food Program in North Philly, and running the food cabinet will add to their work experience. Share donated food to the cabinet at YouthBuild Philly; additional support came from the Student Support Fund launched last summer.
We are in need of durable tote bags to help students take food home! If you have any grocery totes to spare, please let us know. 

Getting Ready for MLK Day 2017!

Preparations for our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service are in full swing!fullsizerender

Last week, YouthBuild Philly’s Community Project Coordinators traveled to Ziegler Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia to begin stenciling the murals that our students and volunteers will paint next Monday. We’re excited to report that Ziegler students are already looking forward to the new murals, and even helped with some of the stenciling!

Our project at Ziegler marks the 5th year that YouthBuild Philly students have spent their MLK Day repainting a Philadelphia public school. Our past projects have taken us to Longstreth Elementary, Morton ElementaryMcMichael Elementary, and Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy.

Education will be the focus of many MLK Day projects taking place throughout the region, as reported in The Philadelphia Tribune.  We are proud to join others in investing time and resources in local schools!

In addition to painting murals in the school hallways, our project volunteers will be creating care packages and blankets for shelter residents, and installing Solar Gard products in the school’s auditorium.

Volunteer slots for our project are full; however, anyone interested in volunteering on MLK Day can go to the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service website to find other opportunities.

News From Our National Network

Monday’s edition of The New York Times  featured a profile of Dorothy Stoneman, who founded the first YouthBuild program in East Harlem in 1978.  Over the next 38 years, Dorothy’s vision – engaging young people in rebuilding their lives and their community at the same time – grew to encompass 260 programs in the U.S. and 80 international programs. Through it all, Dorothy has been an inspiring leader and an ally to young adults.


In the fall of 2016, Dorothy announced that she would transition away from YouthBuild USA. Her successor, John Valverde, comes to the YouthBuild movement with years of experience advocating for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.  His own  “second chance” story, of pursuing education and a new life while in prison, has been making the rounds in national media in recent weeks.

As we celebrate our 25th year of providing YouthBuild services in Philadelphia, we are grateful to Dorothy for inspiring our origins and ensuring our local success with advocacy and partnership-building at the national level. She has had incredible influence – indirect and, in many cases, direct – on our students’ lives and their confidence as young leaders. Please join us in wishing her well, and welcoming John to our large and loving YouthBuild family!

Women in Leadership Conference at TD University

Twenty women representing YouthBuild’s Business Administration program and the Young Professionals extracurricular group traveled to Mt. Laurel, NJ earlier this week to attend a Women in Leadership conference at TD University.


The conference was hosted by women representing TD Bank leadership in the region, and featured networking as well as career development activities. Students and TD volunteers spent the morning doing icebreaker activities, and rotated through interview preparation, job searching, resume writing and professional dress trainings during the afternoon.


Here are some of our students’ takeaways:

They saw good potential in me and I just felt good, I felt like a professional when I was sitting at the table.


My favorite part was talking to all the great, awesome women, and how they all told me how I could be whatever I wanted.  It doesn’t matter where you come from, just do what you have to do, get the job done.  Everybody starts somewhere, so just don’t give up.


In addition to hosting the conference, TD donated several boxes of clothing and accessories for our students!  We are very grateful to all the women at TD who showed genuine interest in mentoring and supporting our students on Tuesday, and look forward to future events and collaborations!


Celebrating Thanksgiving as a YB Family

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!




To feed this large group, our staff took on many cooking challenges on Tuesday night, from sides to dessert, and brought their masterpieces in the next morning. This year’s menu included:

  • 8 Turkeys
  • 4 Hams
  • 8 Large trays of mac & cheese


Some of us (or at least your humble blogger) were exhausted and ready to nap after this incredible meal, but our resident DJ kept the party going!


Special thanks this year go to Sharon Foley and Kelli Joseph from Wyndham Hotel Group, who contributed to the spread and also volunteered to serve food to students. Thank you for donating your time and joining our community on this important day!

40 Students Graduate in November Ceremony

15259753_1802733366643895_8947301776296868778_oWe love graduation ceremonies of every size – large, small, and anywhere in between. At YouthBuild, our focus on students as individuals means that each student’s completion is a milestone for our school.  Each diploma-accepting smile is its own special event.

On Tuesday, November 22 we celebrated forty times as the Fall School cohort of the Class of 2016 walked across the stage at Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.  Last week’s graduates are all students who overcame unique struggles – and used a little extra time – to complete YouthBuild’s diploma requirements, which include academic achievements, demonstration of vocational skills, and the completion of community impact hours.

The theme for this ceremony became “be the change you want to see the world,” as staff and students reflected on the self-determination that the Class of 2016 has shown. We are so proud of our graduates’ resilience and motivation, and believe they will make a big difference wherever they go from here!

Click through our gallery for more photos from the ceremony:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.