PHOTOS: Celebrating 25 Years with Founders and Friends

On May 4 YouthBuild Philly’s board, staff, founders and friends gathered at the National Museum of Jewish History to celebrate our school’s 25th anniversary.


“Silver Anniversary, Golden Opportunities” featured a cocktail reception, silent auction, dancing, and a moving series of speeches by leadership and alumni.  

The program included a special recognition for former executive director Simran Sidhu, who transitioned away from YouthBuild in the fall. Board Chair Marty Brigham and Class of of 1995 graduate Jahi Davis presented a “Golden Opportunities” award to Simran to thank her for her years of leadership at YouthBuild Philly.


The event additionally recognized our founding executive director Taylor Frome and founding Board of Trustees member John Gallery and our history through speeches and a timeline of photos and artifacts from the last two and a half decades.

We also premiered a short video about the beliefs that make up YouthBuild Philly’s identity as an organization and a school.  Take a look:

Following the program, we opened the dance floor and let DJ G33k turn up the volume. After all, you only turn 25 once!

Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us. We had more than 200 guests, and raised nearly $28,000 to support student and alumni programming – surpassing our fundraising goal by almost $3,000. All proceeds from this event will support services and opportunities for YouthBuild students and alumni.

Special thanks to our VIP guests, our fundraising committee, and to lead sponsor Saint-Gobain North America.

Host Sponsor: TD Bank
Program Sponsors: Raynes McCarty and EY
Blue & Gold Sponsors: Skanska and Southco
Green Sponsors: BMC Benefit Services, Your Part-Time Controller, and Lindsay Insurance
In-kind support: Starbucks Coffee Company, Divine Cakes, Yards Brewing Co., Saint Benjamin Brewing Company, and more than 35 local businesses who provided silent auction items.
Check out our Facebook Page for more pictures from the event.

Students & Staff Explore, Volunteer in Puerto Rico During Spring Break

During YouthBuild’s spring break, a group of select students and staff traveled to Utuado, Puerto Rico for a week of service projects, bonding, and exploration. The group stayed briefly in Old San Juan before traveling inland to Utuado for service.


The service project this year focused on helping a coalition of small farmers renovate and build infrastructure on communal land, to protect their crops and livelihoods. Students also had an opportunity to connect with agriculture students at the University of Utuado, and learn about the economic and political challenges faced by the region and the local university. This was an eye-opening experience for our students, and the service also gave many students an opportunity to practice leadership skills as they spearheaded the building projects.

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Thank you to everyone who supported our spring break trip – we’re proud to offer this once-in-a-lifetime experience to our students!


Event Preview: Silver Anniversary, Golden Opportunities

We are just a few weeks away from our 25th anniversary celebration on May 4! In recognition of our school’s quarter-century milestone, we’ve expanded our usual annual celebration to a new venue, and lengthened the party to include a special program and dance party to follow.

Tickets are on sale now – get yours while they last!

More about the event: 


This year’s event will be held at The National Museum for American Jewish History’s one-of-a-kind ballroom, which has a terrace and incredible views of the Independence Mall and Philadelphia skyline — a perfect place to celebrate YouthBuild’s history in Philadelphia, and our school’s focus on the future of its young people.

Program & Entertainment

Cocktails and music start at 6 PM, and we will hold a brief program celebrating our history and sponsors and honoring former executive director Simran Sidhu at 8 PM. Our live DJ for this event is DJ G33k, who will keep the party going until 10 PM!


For the seventh consecutive year, JPM Catering created a custom menu for our event, featuring heavy hors d’ouevres and desserts.

Our open bar will feature wine, local beer, and a signature cocktail. VIP guests will also receive champagne in limited-edition flutes to toast YouthBuild’s legacy of life-changing education and job training!

No celebration would be complete without cake, and we’re grateful to Divine Cakes for donating a custom 25th anniversary cake!

Silent Auction & Donation Wall

In addition to celebrating our success and honoring our supporters, our goal for this event is to raise funds that will directly help future YouthBuild students as they get their lives back on track.  To that end, our event will feature a silent auction and donation wall.

Silent Auction Preview:

  • Front-row Phillies tickets
  • Worlds’ End State Park cabin rental
  • Backstage tour and performance tickets for The Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Center City “Staycation” package
  • Museum memberships

Donation Wall Preview:

  • Sponsor classroom and worksite supplies
  • Sponsor a scholarship for a college-bound graduate
  • Sponsor a professional networking lunch for students

VIP Packages

This year’s VIP event experience includes:

  • VIP service at our event’s open bar
  • Expedited check-in
  • VIP gift bag
  • A limited-edition 25th anniversary champagne flute (champagne included).


Thank you to our sponsors, who have made it possible for us to celebrate our mission and supporters and raise funds to assist our students with this event.

“Silver Anniversary, Golden Opportunities” is presented by lead sponsor Saint-Gobain North America.


Host Sponsor: TD Bank
Program Sponsors: Raynes McCarty and EY
Blue & Gold Sponsors: Skanska and Southco
Green Sponsors: BMC Benefit Services, Your Part-Time Controller, and Lindsay Insurance

Get your tickets today!

YB Welcomes Guest Speaker MK Asante

Author, professor, and filmmaker MK Asante visited YouthBuild on Monday during lunch to read from his memoir Buck.  Mr. Asante talked to students about his experience growing up in Philadelphia and dropping out of multiple schools, and answered their questions about themes in Buck and his creative process.  


Many students and staff have read Buck this year, and we were excited about the opportunity to meet the author!



Meet a Student: Brianah, Class of 2017

Every other Saturday, Brianah wakes up before dawn and travels to Center City for an 8 a.m. carpentry math class. She’s in a select group of YouthBuild students enrolled in this carpenters’ union apprentice class this spring – a brand-new opportunity this year for YouthBuild students.  At the end of this month, she will sit for the carpenters union entry exam.

Being in the union class takes diligence – Saturday attendance is mandatory and there’s extensive math homework between classes – which makes Brianah the right student for this opportunity. Since enrolling at YouthBuild in September she has consistently met her deadlines and her attendance is over 90%.

However, she didn’t always identify as a focused, hard worker. At her last school she used to cut class and get in trouble. “My mom was always up at the school,” she says. Eventually she dropped out due to low motivation.

But now, “I feel good about myself,” she says, “because the things I didn’t do in high school, I’m doing now.”

Brianah says it’s her mother who ultimately inspired her to go back to school.  “My mom always told me, get your education.” When her mother suffered a stroke last year, Brianah realized she wanted to fulfill her mother’s hopes and be ready to support both of them.

“My mom’s stroke made me want to go hard,” she explains.

And she has – in the classroom and on the worksite. As she rapidly fulfills her graduation requirements, Brianah is eligible to graduate from YouthBuild as soon as June.

“I feel proud of myself,” she says. “I’m in a good position.”

She credits YouthBuild with giving her the supports and opportunities that she needs to stay motivated and focus on future success. “YouthBuild is a good school. They really care about you. They really help you. They help you get ready for the real world, get ready to talk to adults. They helped me to see how people skills are relevant.”

Brianah has already given her friends YouthBuild applications, telling them it’s a good idea to apply.  (Our application is also online.)

Brianah’s top 3 personal accomplishments during her time at YouthBuild are:

  • Her poster detailing the history of the Black Lives Matter movement, which she created for her social studies class.

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  • A coat track she made from found and recycled materials in her science class.15590602_10154951247584916_994415059473598507_n
  • The progress her Advanced Construction squad made at the worksite. “I learned how to put up metal studs,” she says._MG_4278

Looking ahead, Brianah would like to study construction and go into the building trades as a full-time professional.

“I’m still young,” she says. “I still have opportunities.”

#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

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#apeoplesjourney #wiltchamberlain #jesseowens #joelouis

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

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

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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.