#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!


Mental Toughness Training

More than 1000 (1022 to be exact) 18-20 year old youth, disconnected from their education, applied to YB Philly for the 2018 school year. 498 applicants were invited to join us for our annual Student Mental Toughness Training (MTT) that ran from August 23rd-August 30th.

MTT is a 6-day workshop series that constitutes the final step in the YouthBuild admissions process. Applicants are expected to show up on time every day and participate in the workshops, which provide an overview of YouthBuild’s climate, culture, and program and address important professional and life skills needed for success.

On Day 1, 368 applicants showed up for MTT. The first day of MTT was exciting for both staff and students. Every day, students were greeted by YB Philly staff in the hallways with welcoming cheers, high fives, good music and snacks.

Each day of MTT, Director of Student Life, Ameen Akbar, lead a #villagemeeting that functioned as a time of reflection to set the tone for a successful day. On Days 1 and 2: He urged applicants to reflect on WHY they chose YouthBuild and WHAT Mental Toughness meant to them.


Day 3: Applicants attended the Class of 2017’s Commencement Ceremony, which served as a source of motivation for many of them.

Days 4 and 5: We focused on how to end MTT off strong!


Day 6: The final day of MTT applicants marched down Broad St. to 13th and Race in celebration of their decision to RECLAIM their education. Applicants shouted positive chants and carried signs stating “Let’s Get Educated.”  



The March concluded with a ceremony at the Hampton Inn (13th and Race), in which 228 applicants were officially enrolled into the Class of 2018! *BEST MOMENT EVER!* The new Class of 2018 was excited to say the least.

Popular local motivational speaker, Wallo 267, encouraged the students to always believe in themselves and to take charge of their future.


BIG Congrats to the Class of 2018 for getting through Mental Toughness Training! The best is yet to come.

New Beginnings: Class of 2017 Graduation

Graduation always brings about a great feeling here at YouthBuild Philly. On August 25th, Zion Baptist Church was filled with pride and joy as loved ones, YB Philly staff and supporters awaited the arrival of the Class of 2017.

Before students made their strides into the ceremony, Ameen Akbar, Director of Student Life, in a “basketball coach-like” fashion, gave them a ‘pep-talk’. He reminded them of their journey, obstacles, and how deserving they were of the moment. Needless to say, after his talk they were “graduation ready.”



As the ceremony began, an excitement (that can’t quite be put into words) filled the room. Once the first note of Pomp and Circumstance played, smiles widened and eyes teared up as 101 YB Philly graduates marched into the sanctuary.

Executive Director, Scott Emerick, opened up with an empowering welcome address reminding graduates that “YouthBuild did not transform your lives, YOU transformed your own lives.”


Keynote Speaker, Otis Hackney, Chief Education Officer, expressed his admiration of the graduates for pushing through and accomplishing their goals. He shared some of the obstacles that he faced along his journey to success. He advised graduates to “keep their community with them as they take control of their future”.


Key community partners were honored with awards for their support and dedication to the growth and advancement of YB Philly students:

Benjamin Trinsey, District Manager at Starbucks Coffee Company was presented the YouthBuild Legacy Award.

Angela Hendrix, Director of Education & Professional Development at the General Building Contractors Association was presented the YouthBuild Meaningful Impact Award.

Tesandra Cohen, Program Manager of This Way Ahead at the Gap Foundation was presented the YouthBuild Champion Award.


Graduates who exemplified the YouthBuild values (Respect, Excellence, Perseverance) throughout the year were recognized with student awards.

Staff received awards of appreciation based on Students’ Choice:

Willa Deitch, Language Arts Teacher

Ameen Akbar, Director of Student Life

Obioma Martin, Child Development Associate Instructor

Charmeka Davis, recipient of the YouthBuild Excellence award, shared that “despite her difficult journey, YouthBuild gave her the chance to display the excellence that was already instilled within.”

Salutatorian, Jamison Dugan, encouraged the Class of 2017 to “always be the BEST version of yourself.”


Valedictorian, Damany Daley, shared a speech urging graduates “to never forget that big things have small beginnings and we are very small today.”


Roland Davis performed an original song called “Looking Back” that reflected on Class of 2017’s journey.


The most exciting moment was the presentation of diplomas and the official announcement of the 2017 graduates! The sanctuary was filled with heartfelt cheers, tears of joy and an excitement that could not be contained.


For many, this was more than a graduation. It was a MAJOR accomplishment.



Congratulations Class of 2017!


Class of 2017 June Graduation Ceremony

On June 15th, we celebrated 13 Class of 2017 students who completed all of their requirements to earn their High School Diploma ahead of schedule. There are two more graduation ceremonies scheduled for this year – one in August and one in November.

It was standing room only in the CCR to celebrate these amazing young people.

At this intimate and personalized ceremony, the students could choose who presented them with their diplomas. The students chose teachers, vocational instructors, and other personal champions.

Two of these champions were members of the student’s family. Nicole chose her daughter to present her with her diploma.

Jamison chose his mother.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 June graduates.


Four YouthBuild students pass the Carpenters Union test

After months of preparation, four YouthBuild students pass the Carpenters Union test!

Daven, Isaiah, Anthony, and Nicole all were a part of a select group of YouthBuild students who were enrolled in a carpentry math class that met twice a month on Saturday’s to prepare for the test. Isaiah and Nicole were part of the Greenbuild track, Daven was in the Building & Deconstruction track, and Anthony Advanced Construction. Each of these amazing young people already have between 3 and 5 opportunities to consider once they graduate.

When asked what this accomplishment means to them and what they learned from this accomplishment, they each had this to say:


Daven – “This accomplishment is the beginning of the good life. It taught me not to doubt myself, to know what I want to do, and be resilient”


Isaiah – “This accomplishment means everything. It’s going to lead to a career, not just a job. It taught me patience and perseverance because it took a while.”


Anthony – “This means that I have accomplished one of my goals. I finally have a career that I can build to help my family and community”

Class of 2016 Alumni Induction

On June 7, 2017 we welcomed Class of 2016 students into our alumni network at the Class of 2016 Alumni Induction. This is our third year holding an Alumni Induction. The event was held at the Community College of Philadelphia.

As a two year program, YouthBuild has a diploma year and an alumni year of services. During the second year, students receive services in goal setting, action planning, professional development, life coaching and general community support. The end of Year 2 symbolizes a shift in which our alumni truly step into the world and take the next steps on their career path.

At the Class of 2016 Alumni Induction each student was recognized individually by staff and received a YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School Alumni pin. This pin represents each person’s achievements over the last two years.

Support flooded the room, and there was certainly no lack of hugs.

We hope our alumni will now engage in the YouthBuild community as mentors, advocates and civic leaders who give back to YouthBuild. We hope our future Alumni Inductions will grow into a larger celebration with networking opportunities as well as past years of alumni represented.

Thank you to all of the alumni, staff, and supporters that were at the Class of 2016 Alumni Induction.


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!