Class of 2020 Acceptance March

August 27, 2019— After completing a rigorous five days of Mental Toughness Training, over 200 young people marched through the streets of Philadelphia to reclaim their education. During an official acceptance ceremony that allowed for a time of celebration and reflection, YouthBuild Philly officially accepted 216 applicants into the Class of 2020. Shout out to YouthBuild Philly for showing the city of Philadelphia what it looks like to show up, show out and reclaim your education!

See slideshow below for more photos from this milestone moment:

#YBMade19: Class of 2019 Graduation

August 23, 2019— Graduation is always a very special time for the YouthBuild Philly community. It serves as a time to reflect on the memories, recognize accomplishments, acknowledge the challenges, and make strides towards the future. At this year’s commencement ceremony, held at Zion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, YouthBuild Philly celebrated 106 graduates of the Class of 2019 for their perseverance, dedication and commitment to their decision to reclaim their education. As students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, they were cheered on by an audience of more than 1000 people comprised of their families, friends, YouthBuild staff and supporters. Additionally, they were provided with words of encouragement and inspiration from best-selling author, award-winning filmmaker, and recording artist MK Asante, and community mentor, leader, coach, and former YouthBuild Philly staff member of 14 years, Ameen Akbar who provided the keynote addresses. 

MK Asante, Keynote Speaker
Ameen Akbar, Keynote Speaker

The most memorable and heartfelt part of the ceremony was when all members of the Class of 2019 received their diplomas and were officially announced as graduates! What made that moment even more special was that the Class of 2020 applicants were there watching from the balcony, looking forward to the day that they too will walk across the stage and become #YBMade.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019! We are so proud of you.

See below for a slideshow of more photos from the Class of 2019 Commencement Ceremony:


YouthBuild Philly Fall Fest

October 30, 2019— Fall is finally here and in celebration of the change of seasons YouthBuild Philly’s Student Life team hosted a Fall Fest for students and staff to come together and get festive. Nothing creates a Fall feel more than warm baked treats, hot beverages, and Halloween crafts. The Student Life team delivered that and so much more. 
Highlights of the day included:

Caramel apple station:

Delicious baked goods table featuring Fall Fest Bake-Off treats, where staff prepared Fall-themed desserts of varying categories. Shout out to the Bake-Off champions: Mr. Alex (apple pie), Mr. Paul (caramel banana coconut cheesecake), Ms. Anna (pumpkin chocolate chip cookies) and Ms. Amanda (cookie dough squares):

Hot chocolate and apple cider station:

Pumpkin decorating crafts:

Cotton candy station:

Movie showing of The Intruders:

YouthBuild Philly’s Orange Room was transformed into a Spooky Escape Room where students worked collectively to solve puzzles by using clues and avoiding the “Ghost of YB”:

This lucky group of students escaped!

Check us out on Instagram for a recap of the day on the Student Life Highlight on our profile.

Happy Fall from YouthBuild Philly!

See below for a slideshow of more photos from Fall Fest:

“Getting Things Done”: #YBserves at The Sankofa Community Farm @ Bartram’s Garden

October 25, 2019— Every year YouthBuild Philly kicks off a day of service centered around our core belief in the value of positively impacting the community. As part-time AmeriCorps members, all YouthBuild Philly students aim to “get things done for America” and contribute at least 450 hours of service to the city of Philadelphia. This year, #ybphilly’s Student Life team spearheaded the project and chose a community space with a rich history and connection to African culture: The Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden. Guided by the West African principle of Sankofa, which means “remembering our past to protect our future,” the farm aims to bring consciousness and resources to the Southwest Philadelphia community. Sankofa Community Farm’s deep roots and connection to the Philadelphia community made it the ideal partner for this year’s service kickoff.

The day started off with the AmeriCorps pledge and some words of inspiration from Director of Student Life, Zuri Stone. Zuri’s remarks stood as a reminder to students about the purpose and WHY behind YouthBuild Philly’s commitment to service. 

Zuri Stone, Director of Student Life at YouthBuild Philly

The Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden Co-Directors, Chris Bolden-Newsome and Ty Holmberg led a discussion with students and provided history about the farm and its connection to the community. “We are growing food for people in order to encourage folks to understand and exchange, and YOU are helping with that today,” says Chris. Additionally, Chris encouraged students to let the principle of Sankofa guide their service throughout the day.

Chris Bolden-Newsome, Sankofa Community Farm Co-Director
Ty Holmberg, Sankofa Community Farm Co-Director and his good friend “Bart”

After the team rally, YouthBuild Philly came together to revitalize and renew the farm and community garden through various projects such as:

Constructing new community garden plots (Plots that haven’t been restored in ten years):

Berry and orchard planting (led by the Philadelphia Orchard Project):

Care packages containing male and female hygiene products to be distributed to men and women in local shelters:

Greenhouse cleanup:

Farm Team that focused on preparing beds for the Winter and drainage systems:

Street cleanup (on the side of Bartram’s Garden):

“The Service Kickoff day was a powerful reminder of how much service to others is critical for any community. After taking the AmeriCorps pledge to “get things done”, YouthBuild students worked hard and persevered through two hours of manual labor with peers and staff. Our work at Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden affects the cultural foodscape of the local Southwest Philly community for this growing season and beyond,” says Tara Anastasi, Assistant Director of Student Life at Youthbuild Philly. 

The Class of 2020 showed up, showed out, planted seeds for the community and YouthBuild Philly’s Class of 2021 who will potentially witness the growth of this year’s project at the Service Kickoff next year. 

Shout out to the Class of 2020 for getting things done!

Check us out on Instagram for a recap of the day on the #YBserves Highlight on our profile.

See below for a slideshow of more photos from the kickoff:

A Warm Welcome: GreenBuild Visits Saint-Gobain

October 14— On the heels of last month’s Design Charrette, where GreenBuild students brainstormed on plans for an upcoming construction project with key partners (including Saint-Gobain), a group of students paid a visit to the Saint-Gobain Headquarters in Malvern, PA for a closer look at the facilities and to learn more about the details of Green construction. 

Lucas Hamilton, Manager of Building Science Applications and Jessica Floersch, Communications Specialist at Saint-Gobain led a guided tour of the facilities explaining details about the construction design layout covering hot Green topics such as: Net Zero buildings, Greenbuilding/retrofitting with Green elements, renewable energy, and LEED certification. Students had a chance to learn about the in-depth process and planning that it takes to construct a project as large-scale as the Saint-Gobain headquarters. Great preparation for their upcoming project in West Philadelphia later this year!

During the tour, students were briefly guided through the work-life experience at Saint-Gobain and met some employees including YouthBuild Philly Alumnus, Alonzo Williams, Class of 2015. Alonzo currently works Full-Time in the Customer Experience department of CertainTeed, and has been with the Saint-Gobain team since the summer. Alonzo even had time to meet some of the current GreenBuild students and provided them with words of encouragement about the opportunities that await them after graduating YouthBuild Philly if they stay the course. 

Alonzo Williams, YouthBuild Philly Alumnus Class of 2015

After further Q&A with Lucas and Jessica, students visited fun communal spaces of the facility, such as the on-site gym.

GreenBuild students left Saint-Gobain even more excited about upcoming projects throughout the school year. They even dropped hints to Jessica about planning a return visit in the near future. 

Special thank you to our friends at Saint-Gobain for the warm welcome!
See below for a slideshow of more photos from the tour:

A Meeting of the Minds: Green Home Design Charrette

September 24— YouthBuild Philly GreenBuild students hosted a design charrette with a few key program partners to review plans for an upcoming project that will result in a full gut rehab of a row home in West Philadelphia later this year. GreenBuild students collaborated with Saint Gobain, Friends Rehabilitation Project, Green Building United, Provision Vocational Training Center and Kieran Timberlake to come up with a plan for the construction and architectural design of the project as part of the YouthBuild USA Green Initiative. During the “meeting of the minds” each organization explained their role in the project, and brainstormed project overview and design elements.

Stan Gatland, Manager of Building Science and Comfort at Saint Gobain/CertainTeed led a Building Science Presentation that covered the reasoning behind various architectural plans, and showcased products and materials that could potentially be used on the upcoming project to ensure that it incorporates advanced features such as temperature control, a multi-comfort system, appropriate lighting and good acoustics.

Chris Cato, Green Initiative Project Manager at YouthBuild USA overviewed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Design Process, a system aimed to ensure that the project will be built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all metrics such as: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Kit Elsworth of Kieran Timberlake shared ways to incorporate elements of Passive House, a standard that will be used for energy efficiency in the upcoming project. 

Lastly, GreenBuild students broke into small groups with representatives from each partner organization to brainstorm and provide input on the plan for construction and architectural design of the project. GreenBuild students and program partners are excited to impact the community/environment and collaborate on this project from beginning to end TOGETHER.

Stay tuned for updates on the project’s progress. 

Class of 2020 Cookout Carnival

September 27– YouthBuild Philly created a carnival-themed experience for this year’s Annual Cookout celebrating the Class of 2020. Every year, YouthBuild Philly’s Student Life team hosts a cookout that welcomes the incoming class into the YB family. Staying true to the family vibe, Class of 2020 parents brought their children along to indulge in the day of fun with friends, staff, and peers. This year’s cookout, held in Lemon Hill (Fairmount Park), was filled with action-packed activities seasoned with a carnival feel. 

Highlights of the day included:

Grilled goodness (Hotdogs and burgers (veggie burgers included) ) cooked by YouthBuild Philly staff:

Popcorn Stand:

Bubble Soccer:

Great Music:

Face Painting:

Staff vs. Student Basketball:

Students won!

Double Dutch:

Potato Sack Race:


The Annual Cookout was a family affair in every sense of the word. It always serves as a chance for the YouthBuild Philly community to kick the year off and come together to simply enjoy each other’s company. We look forward to creating many more great memories with the Class of 2020 throughout the school year.
See more carnival cookout fun in the slideshow below!


A Wishlist Fulfilled: IBEW Local 614

September 14, 2019— Youthbuild Philly community spaces just got a bit cozier with the help of our friends at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 614! The team at IBEW Local 614 reached out across their network and hosted a furniture drive to fulfill YouthBuild Philly’s “wishlist” of items for communal spaces and provided pieces such as: end tables, dining tables, whiteboard, rug, chalkboard paint and more. 

On the day of the furniture drop off, the IBEW Local 614 team, led by the President & Business Manager as well as Business Agents from across the region, was greeted with open arms by YouthBuild Philly students who were happy to assist with the unloading and placement of furniture. Afterwards, IBEW Local 614 members led a Q&A session with students with potential interest in the utility industry. The conversation paved the way for the developing partnership to expand beyond the furniture drive by advising and supporting students on their career pathways. 

This picture left to right: Keith Coombs (Business Agent – Philly Region), Shawn Brewer (Business Agent – DelChester Region), Larry Anastasi (President / Business Manager), Joe Pino (Business Agent – BucksMont Region)

Thank you to our friends at IBEW Local 614 for contributing to the YouthBuild Philly community in more ways than one. Every piece of donated furniture will be placed within the school to facilitate spaces for community. We look forward to a growing relationship with IBEW Local 614 and to making the YouthBuild Philly space feel more like HOME. 

IBEW Local 614 with YouthBuild Philly students and staff

Stay tuned for future furniture placement updates! 

Be sure to follow IBEW Local 614 on Instagram: @ibewlocal614

All photo credits to Kenny Gleaton (@wonderland_of_snaps).

Student Life Presents: Black Wall Street

February 22, 2019– In celebration of Black History Month, YouthBuild Philly students participated in conversations and events city-wide that celebrated Black History. Discussion topics ranged from the impact of gun violence on students and education to how to teach Black History to students in schools today. The discussions helped to further the conversation on ways to continue to improve the Black community. In an effort to inspire the YouthBuild community, YouthBuild Philly’s Student Life team hosted a Black Wall Street event where entrepreneurs and business owners shared words of wisdom about their journey to entrepreneurship and encouraged students to become their own boss.

“Student Life believed this event was necessary to try to bridge the enormous economic gap in the Black community. As we have discussed in our Community Change Workshop, the Black dollar circulates only 6 hours in the Black community, which challenged us to try to brainstorm ways to inspire our students to continue to envision an equitable society where their communities could be just as prosperous as their counterparts. We also wanted to show our students that they can turn their passions and interests into gainful careers and expose them to ways they can be their own boss. By connecting them with entrepreneurs with the same mission, which is to continue to dream of a day where their communities return to being self- reliant, we hope to engage them in a tradition of expanding and building on this conversation,” said Jasmine Newton, Community Project Coordinator.

Far Right: Jasmine Newton, Community Project Coordinator

The Black Wall Street networking event highlighted local black-owned businesses, offering students the opportunity to connect and learn how to turn their passions into a profitable business. Some of the participating businesses included: A Single Suggestion, Dre’s Water Ice, Mel’s Butter Blends, Marsh & Mane, Cupcakeology, Historical Dream and Swiss Haus Bakery which is now a Black-owned business, and donated items by JNew Art.

In addition to networking, vendors provided product samples and donated products to the student raffle.

Erika Burnett, Creator of A Single Suggestion
Melissa Lamarre, Owner of Mel’s Butter Brands
Nina Grier, Owner of Historical Dream
Janea Robinson, Owner of Marsh & Mane

Guests also provided tips and answered questions on how to start a business and manage the stress that comes with being a business owner. Additionally, the panel shared stories of how their passions led them to the path of entrepreneurship.

“I decided, instead of complaining about a product I could just open my own business.” -Dre’s Water Ice and Icecream

YouthBuild’s Student Life team created an experience that will be remembered for years to come. Students left the event feeling inspired and more confident to explore the possibilities of their own entrepreneurial paths. Some students even walked away with an internship opportunity.   

“For me the event was exciting, I talked with the owner of Mel’s Butter Blends, which sells natural products for hair and skin, all of the products sold are raw, natural and moisturizing. Eventually, Ms.Mel and I began to converse about my hair and the journey that I have been on to keep my hair moisturized. She began to ask me what I do here at YouthBuild as a student and I explained it to her. After my explanation, she offered me an internship where I would be working closely with her and attending various events with her!” – Brittany Hammond, Class of 2019

Events like Black Wall Street are exactly what Black History Month is all about. Reflecting on history and inspiring change that will continue well beyond the month of February.

“Believe in your Dream!”

Happy Black History Month!

GreenBuild & Drexel join together to impact the community

February 8, 2019– GreenBuild students had their first meeting at the Drexel University Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, beginning a partnership with Drexel Dornsife Center and Drexel Writers Room. The partnership marks YouthBuild’s GreenBuild vocation track’s move into the early stages of being a solar contractor. The day began with an overview and tour of the Dornsife Center, which is a neighborhood hub in West Philadelphia that focuses on programming that supports the community and the surrounding neighborhoods. This stakeholder driven facility works with many nonprofits to solve community issues, especially those related to health and wellness, by promoting community development.

To help develop the community, GreenBuild, led by George Jenkins, is working to create job opportunities in the growing solar energy industry here in Philadelphia.  Over the next three years, funding is set up to launch GreenBuild as a solar contractor, eventually leading to internships and employment opportunities offered through this emerging partnership.

George Jenkins (GreenBuild Instructor)

To put the opportunity into perspective, current GreenBuild students spoke with four alumni, who were Building Trades students during their time at YouthBuild. Alumni spoke about their career experiences, highlighting how they were able to be successful and use the skills they learned at YouthBuild to grow professionally. The meeting sparked excitement among GreenBuild students and served as inspiration for what’s to come.

Ameen Akbar (Director of Student Life) & George Jenkins with GreenBuild Alumni.