Once YouthBuild. Always YouthBuild.

On June 20th, YouthBuild Philly held a special Alumni Induction Ceremony at The Hive Philly in honor of the Class of 2017 alumni who completed the second year of their two year journey with YouthBuild. After their first year, YouthBuild students graduate and enter into their second year for follow-up supports in the form of career and college counseling and monthly coaching sessions with mentors. As the second year comes to a close, the Alumni Induction Ceremony was a reminder to the Class of 2017 that YouthBuild will always be a community that they can lean on. They remembered that it’s more than “alumnihood”. It’s family.

The Alumni Induction was a chance for Class of 2017 alumni to reconnect as a class and celebrate each other’s successes as they step into the next chapter of their journeys.

We celebrated with good food…




Great photos…

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Alumni received official YouthBuild Philly Alumni pins…

We honored the life and legacy of the late Naseer Jones, a beloved member of the Class of 2017 who passed away last December, with a special award in his memory. He will truly be missed by the YouthBuild community.


As the Class of 2017 moves on to do great things, we thank them for all that they’ve done to carry out the YouthBuild legacy, and we welcome them with open arms into the YouthBuild Alumni Association also known as the YouthBuild FAMILY.


Once YouthBuild. Always YouthBuild.


#YBMade18: June Graduation

On June 13th, YouthBuild Philly celebrated its first of three graduation ceremonies for
the Class of 2018. A total of 56 graduates earned their diplomas in a ceremony in our very own Community Celebration Room, joined by supporters including family, friends, staff, employers and mentors.

Each of these young people demonstrated YouthBuild Philly’s core values of Perseverance, Excellence and Respect from the first day of Mental Toughness Training all the way through to their graduation. All 56 of our June graduates will be invited back to share in the August graduation ceremony with their peers – we expect more than 100 graduates to be in attendance at Zion Baptist Church.

Class of 2018 is one of YouthBuild Philly’s largest graduating classes and we couldn’t be more proud to celebrate this major milestone with our students. Congratulations June graduates you are officially #YBMade!

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The face you make when you’ve graduated and are ready to take on the world. (see below):

Family First: Welcome Back Ms. Ashlee!

BIG “Welcome Back!” to Ashlee Hipp, Special Education Teacher and Reading Specialist here at YouthBuild Philly. 

September 2017 marked an exciting new chapter for Ashlee, as she welcomed her newborn son Ryan into the world. After returning from maternity leave in January 2018, Ashlee has  rejoined the YouthBuild Philly family like she never left. Hear about Ashlee’s return to YouthBuild, her experience with the Class of 2018 and her new bundle of joy!

For those who haven’t had the chance to meet you Ashlee, how long have you been working for YouthBuild Philly and what is it that you do here?

I’ve been teaching at YouthBuild Philly for five years.  I’m a Temple grad and I recently got my Masters in Education and Reading Specialist from Cabrini University. I was initially hired as a math teacher, but now I am the Special Education Teacher and the Reading Specialist at YouthBuild.  Reading is a skill that is required everywhere, so I can be found teaching in a variety of classrooms including the CDA classrooms, Reading classes, even Math and sometimes others. I also run a Reading Intervention class on my own.

YouthBuild is so excited to welcome you back, how are you doing?

Good, good!  I’m just returning from maternity leave – I had a little boy in September so he is 5 months old now.  I took 4 months off work, I came back right after the holidays.

Congratulations, are you excited to be returning to YouthBuild?

I am!  It feels like I’ve been here all year.  Before returning, I was slightly concerned that it might be weird because I was not going to meet the 2017-2018 students until January and they may be like – who is this woman?  But the students have been really receptive towards me and I feel like I haven’t missed a beat!

Having time off to spend with your new son and family, how has the adjustment returning been?

It was difficult at first, but I really enjoy what I do and I love our students – it’s usually like an instant connection.  I don’t know why, but it’s always been like that for me here at YouthBuild.  I’m usually so focused on our students and helping them stay on track and accomplish their work, that before I know it the day is over.  I have to say that the students make it so much easier to spend time away from home, because truly in a sense, I feel that they are my children as well.  It’s funny, before I had kids of my own my students would always question me on why I didn’t have kids, and I would tell them – you are my kids, I have so many kids … I have too many kids! [Laughter] I have finally had my own, but coming back here, it is like my second home in a lot of ways.  I’ve been teaching here for five years, so in a lot of ways it is a comfort to return and everyone has been so welcoming, staff and students.  I feel like this is a phenomenal place to work as a mother and a parent because family is so respected.  I find YouthBuild to be so supportive of family life and of making sure that as a whole, you are doing well in all facets of your life.  I really appreciate that.   I feel like that with the support I’ve received from both ends, co-workers and students, how could I not be doing well with the transition back?


Is this your favorite part of YouthBuild’s work environment?

That is definitely it!  I remember when I was setting up for maternity leave, and thinking about how I wanted to be out for longer than FMLA leave, I sat down with my supervisor and she said they talked about it as a program team.  They assured me that YouthBuild wanted to be a family-first organization and wanted to support me in this new chapter of my life.  That is such a rare value for an organization to retain in today’s work environment, and I am so appreciative to be supported by YouthBuild in all facets of my life and am happy that I get to continue to grow professionally here.  I feel like because they have done so much for me and provided me with so much flexibility, it makes me want to be the best version of myself while I am working here and I want to give everything I can back to YouthBuild and our students.  

Is there anything interesting you are working on right now?

I am slowly in the process of becoming more of a coach and less of a co-teacher.  My role is actually in a transition, I’m going to begin adapting the curriculum here at YouthBuild.  I’m usually with the students 100% of the time, but I’m going to start doing more work behind the scenes so that I can hopefully reach the needs of more of our students, rather than just the ones I’m physically present with.  I love what I do and I love that I’m trusted in my knowledge here, of what I know and what I think is best – I feel like if I have a new idea I am always encouraged to run with it.  Change and growth are always embraced.  When you combine all of this with the connection that I always feel with our students year after year, it makes me feel very privileged to be doing work that I love so much.

I’m sure I can speak for everyone at YouthBuild in wishing you and your family, especially your new son the best!

Thank you!  He is the best thing that has ever happened to me, seriously.  He is awesome and has taught me so much about life and what is really important.  I’m really spoiled when it comes to how amazing he is!



Glad to have you back Ms. Ashlee! Ryan is the cutest!

Meet Ernest Dawkins (’18)

Ernest Dawkins wanted a change, and his cousin (Class of 2012 Alumna) encouraged him to apply to YouthBuild. Unlike his last school experience, Ernest was looking for a school where he would stay engaged and grow as a student. Once he got to YouthBuild, he did just that. Ernest is a thriving student on the Advanced Construction track, with the goal of graduating, going to college for Carpentry and pursuing his dream of playing basketball.


It’s safe to say that Ernest is enjoying his YouthBuild experience thus far. He says “my time at YouthBuild has been the best experience of my life. I’m engaged and I talk more in class than I ever have before.” This has not always been the case for Ernest who eventually dropped out of his last school due to low interest and motivation. “YouthBuild provides more of a personal touch and one on one attention with students,” he says.

Ernest made the decision to prioritize his education and get on a better path. “School is my priority. This is a big shift for me, and has taken a lot of stress off my mom. She doesn’t have to worry as much now that I’m on a better path,” he explains.

Ernest’s main source of motivation has always been his family. As a 19 year old with North Philadelphia roots, Ernest has a strong desire to support his family (Mom, Dad, 4 brothers and 1 sister). “I want to be able to support my family. I want to be in a position to help them. They have already done so much for me.”


Additionally, Ernest’s passion for basketball helps to keep him driven. He started playing basketball at the early age of four. Ernest learns from his love of basketball on and off the court. “The respect I have for my teammates, is the same respect I have for my YouthBuild family,” he says. “If you have strong work ethic and grind hard, you will get results. Just put your all into it,” he explains. When asked about his favorite player Ernest says, “I love the game. I do not have a favorite player. You can learn from any player, from the worst to the best. You have to study them in life, not just their game.” Good point Ernest.

As session three comes to a close, Ernest is closer than ever to his goals and he couldn’t be more excited. Ernest acknowledges some of his teachers who have contributed to his growth as a student. “Shout out to Ms. Kenya, who makes learning easy. I love her way of teaching,” he says, “Shout out to Mr. Rich, who always stays on me and makes sure that my work is done.”

“YouthBuild has helped to put me on the road to success.”

Keep up the great work Ernest! Keep going.


Tymere Carter-Burns: YouthBuild, A Second Family

Get to know Tymere Carter-Burns (‘18), GreenBuild track student.

Tymere is a 19 year old West Philadelphia native, who has become part of the YouthBuild family in more ways than one. Learn more about his journey and why YouthBuild has become his second family.

What brought you to YouthBuild?

My sisters. All of my sisters attended YouthBuild, and I attended their graduations. Going to their graduations made me feel happy and I looked forward to being in the same place. I wanted to be a graduate with a trade.

(Five of Tymere’s sisters attended YouthBuild in the graduating classes of 2005, 2007, 2011, and 2012 (2)).

Hearing about my sisters’ experience really made me want to come to YouthBuild. They all had good experiences. YouthBuild has really become part of the family.

Tymere Carter-Burns with two of his siblings at YouthBuild Philly.

What has your YouthBuild experience been like thus far?

My experience has been “litty”. I wake up looking forward to coming to school. Even if there’s drama in my life, YouthBuild brings a positive energy. It’s the little things. They bring you up when you’re feeling down. When you’re absent they check on you to make sure you’re good. Everyone has a good vibe, and I don’t have to worry about drama.

What advice did you receive from your sisters on how to navigate your YouthBuild experience?

  • “Go after all of the opportunities that YouthBuild provides.”
  • “Don’t be shy, and ask questions if you don’t know the answer.”
  • “The case managers are in your corner, you can trust them.”

Overall, my sisters showed me the ropes and prepared me for YouthBuild.

Tell me a little about your experience on the GreenBuild track.

We have fun and we’ve grown a bond. I have been learning a lot and gaining a lot of construction experience. Right now, we are building a training center for future Building Trade classes to come.

What has been your favorite GreenBuild activity so far?

Our trip to the GreenBuild International Conference and Expo in Boston has been by favorite trip so far. We had a chance to network with companies and staff/students from other YouthBuild programs across the country. It was my first time in Boston, and GreenBuild had a chance to bond.

Tymere and GreenBuild peers at the GreenBuild International Conference & Expo in Boston, Massachusetts.

What are your future goals?

My future goal is to graduate YouthBuild with a trade that will allow me to be the best family man and father that I can be.

What is your favorite thing about YouthBuild?

The love that they show. One morning, I was mad leaving the house. I was still mad when I got to Ms. Jody’s class, and I brought my attitude to class. I started being mean. Ms. Jody treated me nice regardless of my attitude. I noticed this, and it led me to apologize and share what was making my day rough. This makes me appreciate YouthBuild.

Do you have any shout outs?


  • Mr. George- My GreenBuild instructor. He really is working hard to get me where I need to go. He’s getting me ready for the working world.
  • Mr. David- My mentor. He really helps me get my academics on track.
  • Ms. Rebekah- Math is my favorite subject and she is my favorite math teacher.

What motivates you on your YouthBuild journey?

My family, my three year old daughter Symera, and my education which will help me to support my family.

Tymere planting a tree at TD Bank’s Tree Day in Kensington.

What are some core  family values/lessons that you will always carry with you?

My father and mother have both passed away. They always instilled strong family values in me and my siblings. We learned that you should take up for your family always. If no one loves you, at least your family will love you. Family is so important. Family is everything to me.

That’s why I love YouthBuild. I feel like I’m at home, like I’m with my second family.





#YBExcellence: Alumni Stories

This month we are highlighting two remarkable #YBPhilly alumni who took full advantage of the support they received at YouthBuild Philly. Tyrik (Class of 2010) and Nicole (Class of 2017) are prime examples of #YBexcellence. See below to learn more about their journeys.



Tyrik (‘10) was born a leader. The fifth of ten children, he worked hard from the age of 10 to help support his single mother and his brothers and sisters – taking odd jobs like pumping gas and carrying groceries for tips to help feed his family. As an early teen, the hard work and leadership qualities took a turn, as he led his friends into mischievous, then eventually illegal, behavior.

After a series of escalating events at schools like Philadelphia Military Academy and Community Education Partners, Tyrik was eventually arrested and placed in The Glen Mills Schools. This time in placement unexpectedly gave Tyrik a great chance to be a leader in positive ways. He was elected president of his unit and also started playing sports for the first time, excelling at volleyball, football and basketball – and was even offered a basketball scholarship at a local college. At the time, Tyrik thought “this is my chance to be the first in my family to go to college.”

When he was released from Glen Mills before earning his diploma, Tyrik had to find another option for over-aged, under-credentialed students – and had heard about YouthBuild from his older brother and sister, who graduated a few years before. With the scholarship as his motivation, Tyrik came to YouthBuild Philly with a desire to demonstrate his leadership skills and “was given so many new opportunities at YouthBuild, and I liked everything I tried.” His positive energy and desire to help his peers find their own potential made him stand out and helped him forge lasting relationships with virtually every staff member at the school. “I matured a lot at YouthBuild – it’s deeper than school,” he says, listing more than 10 staff members that he had a deep connection to during his time.

Immediately upon graduation, Tyrik left Philadelphia for Johnson College in Scranton, where he earned his Associate’s Degree while playing for the basketball team. While playing in an all-star game in Delaware, he was noticed by a coach at Wilmington University – and offered the chance to earn his Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science, which he completed in 2015.

Tyrik’s journey has taken him back to Glen Mills – now as a counselor. He’d worked part-time there since graduating from YouthBuild, and after earning his Bachelor’s, two mentors at Glen Mills recommended him for a Dean position at Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Charter School. After interviewing and touring the school, he started working as a Dean the very next day. Within six months, he was hand-selected to become a 5th grade math teacher after the school’s principal took notice of his work as a tutor and the connections he was able to make. Even while teaching, he never lost his passion for his work as a Dean –  “they used to call me a Dean-Teacher.” During prep periods he roamed the halls to maintain his connection to the entire school, before eventually realizing that he was best-suited to a behavioral role.

Now focusing his youth development full-time at Glen Mills, Tyrik uses his experiences to connect with the young men there to help them reach their potential. “I’ve been through what they’ve been through,” he explains about his connection with Glen Mills students; “they see that I’m able to be real with them.” In addition to this day-to-day work, Tyrik works with a number of community organizations on dropout prevention efforts – but remains dedicated to making sure that even those who do leave school realize it’s not too late to turn their lives around. “It just makes me want to keep helping, helping, helping” other young men to realize their potential and achieve their goals.



Nicole’s (‘17) connection to younger generations is literal. As a proud mother of a daughter, her motivation to succeed beyond YouthBuild Philly is also inherent. “Everything I do is for my daughter – I want to show her that she can do anything,” Nicole explains.

Before her daughter was born, things weren’t always so clear for Nicole. She bounced around from house to house as a child, living with family members and in foster care from the age of 3 until she was 9 years old, when she was finally able to live with her mother full-time. Even then, she fended for herself much of the time, working several jobs at once to help support herself. When she became pregnant during her junior year at Thomas Edison High School, she struggled socially as peers judged, teased and even threatened her. As a result, she left school to focus on becoming a mother.

Continuing to work various low-skill minimum wage jobs while taking on the new responsibilities of motherhood, Nicole realized that her options without a high school diploma were limited, and decided to re-enroll in school – “I had to go back to school, to better myself for my daughter.” Her cousin graduated from YouthBuild in 2010, “so I always knew about YouthBuild, and realized this was my best chance to finish my diploma.” Once completing mental toughness, Nicole immediately showed herself as a “quiet storm,” taking on every leadership opportunity she was offered.

Nicole excelled in YouthBuild’s GreenBuild construction track, and had opportunities to set herself up for further career success by attending conferences and networking events, such as the American Association of Energy Engineers’ global conference last spring, and also worked with various community and corporate partners to help broaden her knowledge as well as her network. Nicole also benefited from a series of pre-apprenticeship classes on several Saturdays this past Spring – one of a just a handful of GreenBuild students to have this unique opportunity. The classes prepared her for the union exam, which she passed in May.  Even though she had to sacrifice some social opportunities to push forward professionally, she firmly says “it was all worth it – just knowing that I invested in myself.” In June, Nicole was one of just 12 students to have finished their graduation requirements early enough to participate in a special early graduation ceremony. Naturally, her daughter came to the stage to present her diploma.

Since graduation, Nicole has been working with the city’s local carpenters’ union, and just signed a nine year apprenticeship contract – when she finishes, she’ll have a minimum of 15 certifications. Her focus is now on flooring installation, but she plans to take many classes offered by the union, including doors, welding, scaffolding, and much more – but appreciates the focus and attention to detail needed in flooring. Once her contract is up, Nicole hopes to open her own construction business, and eventually give back to the community in another way, by opening a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.

In addition to setting a strong example for her daughter and younger sister, Nicole’s community has embraced her leadership. She humbly says “people come up to me all the time and tell me that they’re proud of me, of the things that I’ve done.” Recognizing her own unique path to construction, she’s eager to give back and provide opportunities for more young women when she eventually opens her own company.


#YBPhilly Stands Against Domestic Violence

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. At YouthBuild Philly, a group of students displayed excellent leadership in organizing a “Purple Thursday” to help raise awareness for such an important message – particularly for young people.  Staff and students were encouraged to wear purple, and many signed pledges to stand against domestic violence.  Funds were raised for Women Against Abuse by students in the healthcare track, and they had the opportunity to present their donation at the non-profit’s headquarters in Center City.



Ms. Doris, who contributed to the campaign, said: “Domestic violence is a public health epidemic that affects 1 in 3 women across the U.S.  This is an issue that impacts you, your classmates, your family, your neighborhood, your workplace, and your community.”  She was excited by the students’ incredible efforts and all of the important conversations concerning domestic and dating violence taking place in YouthBuild spaces.


For more information about Domestic Violence visit womenagainstabuse.org

Service the YB Way

Service is a way of life here at YouthBuild Philly. On September 11, over 200 students and YB Philly staff members joined together for a day of service at Marie Dendy Playground (10th & Oxford) to clean up the park and the surrounding streets. Students picked up trash, swept sidewalks, planted trees and painted signs of inspiration to hang in the playground, giving the community a “facelift”.






Doing service the YB WAY!

Shonte Workman: A Budding Leader

Shonte Workman, is a member of YouthBuild Philly’s newest class: Class of 2018. Shonte has 100% attendance, and is a budding leader here at YouthBuild. We are excited to highlight Shonte’s YouthBuild journey this month!

What brought you to YouthBuild?

I wanted a second chance at life. I wanted my diploma, not my GED. I dropped out of school at 15 when I had my son, Micah. I was being home-schooled, and it was hard to maintain my grades.


What has your YouthBuild experience been like thus far?

I like YouthBuild a lot. I receive a lot of good feedback from my teachers and it’s very motivating. I feel very supported.

What are your future goals?

I want to get a scholarship so that I can go to college. My long term goal is to become a registered nurse.

Who inspires you?

My son Micah is my inspiration and motivation to achieve my goals. My older sister motivated me as well. (After a conversation with her older sister about her future and not having a diploma, she decided to apply to YB immediately after that conversation.)

What have been your biggest accomplishments at YouthBuild  so far?

  • Math: I never enjoyed math before, it was always my biggest struggle. Now, I am finally enjoying it. Thanks to Ms. Rebekah who really cares about her students. She allows everyone to learn at their own pace.
  • Getting along with peers. Before YouthBuild, I would isolate myself. Now I connect with my peers. We motivate each other. It’s a very supportive environment.
  • Simply being part of the Class of 2018! It feels exciting knowing that I’m on the road to getting my diploma. Each day is exciting to me because I know that I am one step closer to my goal.

Have you had any new experiences here at YouthBuild?

In Ms. Jody’s class, I had to get out of my comfort zone and present my auto-ethnography in front of the class. It’s helping me grow in public speaking. At YouthBuild, I’ve been given many chances to step up and be a leader.

If you could give a “shout out” to anyone at YouthBuild, who would it be?

(She couldn’t choose just one.)

  • Mr. Rich– He is always very helpful and encouraging.
  • Ms. Rebekah– She always provides me with helpful feedback on my work. I never used to receive positive feedback in school, and Ms Rebekah’s input makes me feel happy, like I’m doing something right.
  • Ms. Sharena– She always uplifts me when I’m down. She’s like my big sister, someone I look up to.
  • Mr. Pete– He always motivates me to go outside of my comfort zone, and when I listen to him I always get good results.
  • Mr. Ricky– He is encouraging and motivating.

Who are your favorite teachers?

Mr. Rich and Ms. Rebekah because they are so positive, and they helped me with my REACH forms.

What advice would you give to 16 year old Shonte?

Stay in school, don’t play around in hallways, and that you will never get wasted time back.

Would you recommend YouthBuild to someone else?

Yes, I never felt like this before at any school. Coming to YouthBuild was the best thing I’ve done in my life. It was a good decision.


Keep up the great work Shonte!

#YBPhilly Welcomes Ms. Jennifer!

Get to know Jennifer Carroll, our new Career Pathway Coordinator!

Here at YouthBuild we pride ourselves on having a team that’s committed to serving the best interests of our students. We are excited to welcome one of the newest additions to the YouthBuild Philly family, Jennifer Carroll, Career Pathway Coordinator. 

Jennifer, Philly native, tells us about her passion for working with young people, her long term goals for her time with YouthBuild, and her favorite cheesesteak spot.


What brought you to YouthBuild Philly?

I started my career as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at University City High School doing college access work, supporting students with college preparation and post-secondary planning.  That experience solidified my passion for working with young people early in my career.  Since then, after getting my master’s degree, I’ve continued working in student support roles and have become interested in understanding the overarching goal we should have for our students; what is it that we want them to become?  What resources, guidance, and opportunities do we need to be able to provide them in order to support students and allow access to whatever it is that they envision for themselves in their future?  There are so many options for career pathways after high school; I believe it is valuable that these post-secondary options are made accessible to students.

How do you feel about working at YouthBuild?

I am excited to work with YouthBuild students because they are taking ownership of their education, they may have challenges to overcome, but they have made the inspiring decision to be hungry for the support and opportunities YouthBuild can provide.  This is the first space I’ve been in where it feels like the education is a partnership between staff and students.

What is exciting about this work environment?

There is so much possibility! This is a space that is open to new ideas and to thinking differently about educational approaches.  Our staff and administration seem to have a very thorough understanding of who our students are, both their strengths and challenges, this is so important when communicating with partners.  This dialogue and understanding allows our partnerships to be effective at meeting our youth where they are and helping to lift them up.

What are some of your long term goals for your time spent here at YouthBuild?

To bring intentionality to the way we are bringing post-secondary educational opportunities to our students.  It is important we help our young people really think through their choices and imbed a culture in our school that encourages students to take ownership of their futures and truly understand the flexibility of the options they have after graduation.  I hope to work with colleges in Philadelphia to create exciting spaces for our students, on their campuses and in their classrooms.  The goal of these spaces is to allow our students to explore their possibilities and gain a sense of agency and self-determination that will help them to succeed after leaving the support systems we provide here at YouthBuild Philadelphia.

Is there something interesting you are working on right now?

Today, I had three students starting their first college course at Community College of Philadelphia. This is really exciting because the course will provide them with three hours of college credit and expose them to higher education.  It’s exciting to see students hit the ground running so early into the year.

What are some of the challenges present in your work?

It is always difficult to help a student to build self-confidence and recognize their inherent resiliency.  I make sure students understand that they are just as deserving to be in certain spaces as anyone else;  they are just as capable. Students only have to put in the work and maintain that mindset.  The success comes when they can sustain that confidence even when they come up against obstacles and are challenged.

Best place to get a cheesesteak in Philly?

I’m from West Philly, so of course I have to say Larry’s near City Line Avenue.  I’d be foolish not to shout out the shop in the neighborhood I grew up in.

Favorite Hobbies?

Bicycling and Running.  I gained a new appreciation for Philly after picking up these hobbies.  There are so many amazing places in this city we drive by everyday, that when on a run, I get to see from a new vantage point!