Special Visitors in October

During the month of October YouthBuild Philly had some special guests who paid us a visit to get more acquainted with programming and to witness YouthBuild in action firsthand.

“Pru-Week” with Prudential

October 16, 2018– Every year Prudential, a friend of the YouthBuild movement, hosts an annual event called “Pru-Week” to celebrate their employees and spread awareness about one of the groups the foundation works with. This year they chose YouthBuild.  

Staff from the Prudential local office in Fort Washington mixed, mingled and worked with Advanced Construction students at their worksite in the Logan area of Philadelphia. Over the last few years in partnership with Provision of Grace World Mission Church, Advanced Construction students have been diligently working to build a Community Development Center (CDC) that will serve and provide resources to the residents of Logan. In honor of “Pru-Week” or Prudential Cares Week, Prudential employees lent students a helping hand at the worksite for the day.


The Prudential team bonded with students through various worksite activities such as:

Morning Huddle: 


On-site work: 





Lunchtime Huddle:






A Closing Huddle where everyone shared a recap of their experience for the day: 


We had a great time with our friends at Prudential and hope that they will visit us again soon!


Congressional Visit

October 19, 2018– Staffers for key members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittee visited YouthBuild Philly to meet with staff to learn about program elements and see students in action at their respective worksites. “The visit to a YouthBuild  DOL (Department of Labor) site was a huge deal (years in the making) and will make a huge difference for the entire YouthBuild movement.”- Ilana Levinson, Senior Director, Advocacy and Public Policy, YouthBuild USA.



Conversations Over Coffee

October 16, 2018– Every year, Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) hosts State of Young Philly, an annual event series that brings together Philly’s young professionals, elected officials, organizational leaders, and millennials to highlight leadership citywide. YouthBuild Philly joined YIP’s week-long celebration of civic engagement as hosts of Conversation Over Coffee, a student-led panel where YouthBuild Philly students discussed topics relevant to their personal lives and the community. During the event, coffee is served by BAS students in our student-operated cafe.


Young Friends of YouthBuild Philly Board members moderated student panels discussions on student-selected topics: Teen & Young Adult Parenting and Technology & Community Building. Students shared their personal experiences as young parents and young people living in a technology-driven society. The discussion allowed for students to connect with guests and each other to find possible solutions to issues that affect young adults throughout the city.

Conversations Over Coffee continues to be a YouthBuild Philly favorite event because it creates a platform for students to rise as leaders and share their voice with those outside of the YouthBuild community.


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We look forward to next year!

YouthBuild Alumni Making Waves

“We believe in the ripple effect– when students transform their lives, they can transform the community around them.” Read on to learn about two of our alumni who have changed their own lives and the lives of those around them, starting with a ripple caused by reclaiming their education. Since graduating from YouthBuild Philly, Malik (Class of 2016) and Zurrell (Class of 2009) are continuing to ride the #YBWave by positively impacting their families and community.


Copy of Malik Option 2

Before coming to YouthBuild, Malik’s (Class of 2016) high school experience revolved around confusion, anger, and low self-esteem. Coping with a rare autoimmune disease known as alopecia had impacted Malik’s mental health as well. “I always felt like people were looking at me for the wrong reasons.” One day this anger boiled over into a fight, and next thing he knew, Malik was facing legal trouble – resulting in a three-month incarceration.

After leaving jail, Malik attempted to re-enroll in another school, but they didn’t meet his needs as a place to redirect his energy and talents in a more productive way. Once he found out about YouthBuild – and came to interview and get to know staff – Malik knew that this was his opportunity to blossom as a leader. “YouthBuild was like a joy,” he says as he reflects on the teachers and staff members that helped bring out his best qualities.

As an Advanced Construction student, his instructor’s “tough love” paved the way for him to succeed. “Mr. Ron held us to a standard of ‘get it done or leave’” – which instilled accountability, self-respect, and a sense of pride – building on “the small things” he learned from everyday successes. Those “small things” led him to many advanced certifications (CPR training, OSHA 30) that he was able to add to his resume to enhance his candidacy.

After starting at CCP immediately after graduation, Malik quickly refocused his energy to PowerCorps PHL, where he would eventually serve in three different roles – Member, Fellow, and Assistant Crew Leader. This experience prepared him for his current career path with Water Logs, an industry leader in the field of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). Currently a Foreman and Site Inspector, Malik plans to take his skills in GSI to open a new business with his own crew within a few years, and eventually give college another go, to major in Business at Temple University and open his own construction business.


Zurrell Option 1

Until reaching high school, Zurrell (Class of 2009) excelled in class and was regularly on the honor roll. He loved school and had dreams of going to college and starting his own business. However, when Zurrell got to high school he lost that focus as he prioritized socializing and “goofing off” with friends. “High school was definitely a difficult time. I started looking more at the social scene and wasn’t worried about the educational aspect.” As a result of his lack of focus, Zurrell had to make up classes in summer school, and was even held back a grade. After seeing his friends graduate on time while he was still in school, he chose to leave school and enter the workforce once he turned 18.

With no high school diploma, Zurrell’s options for work were limited. While working at Toys ‘R’ Us earning minimum wage, he realized that a diploma would open up new opportunities for him. “I needed to do something,” he recalls thinking. “I’m not going to accomplish my dreams on $7.25 or $7.50 an hour.” He’d heard about YouthBuild from one of his neighbors who attended the school, and after being reminded by a recruitment poster, he decided to come to apply to YouthBuild so that he could see it for himself.

YouthBuild reignited Zurrell’s passion and love of education. A self-starter for his whole life, he was used to relying on intrinsic motivation to lead him to success. His mother supported his independence – trusting his judgment and never pushing him in any particular direction – and fully supported him enrolling at YouthBuild. In fact, Zurrell’s maturity and leadership shone from the very first day of Mental Toughness Training – he remembers encouraging his older sister to come with him every day, and they earned their diplomas together. Zurrell went back to his honor roll days, and ended up earning the honor of class valedictorian.

Even before he graduated from YouthBuild, Zurrell enrolled in a bridge program at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and eventually became the only alumnus from his cohort to earn an Associate’s Degree at Stevens. From there, he considered numerous four-year college options before enrolling at Temple. “Getting into Temple was such a huge accomplishment – for so many young people in Philly, we see Temple but we don’t see it as an option.” With thoughts of working either in sports or with youth, Zurrell took a career assessment test which identified sports and recreation as a career path for him – fortunately, Temple offered this as a major, and Zurrell graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in sports and recreation management.

Zurrell immediately began moving forward in his career while maintaining his commitment to community. He took a role as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Police Athletic League, and when his year of service ended, he began working at a local YMCA as a Sports Supervisor – eventually becoming Camp Assistant Director, and then Program Director. He also stayed connected to YouthBuild, both nationally as a member of YouthBuild USA’s VOICES (Views On Improving Credentials and Education Success) advisory council, and locally as a member of the Young Friends of YouthBuild Philly.

When an opportunity in YouthBuild’s postsecondary department opened earlier this year, Zurrell was encouraged to apply. After taking a temporary position, his contract was extended, and he was promoted to a full-time staff member, now working with YouthBuild alumni as a Career Coordinator. “Everything I did in the past came back full circle in the best way,” Zurrell reflects as he considers his path back to YouthBuild.


Please consider making a gift today to help keep the #YBWave rolling. Click the image below to visit our fundraising page – any amount you’re able to give makes a ripple to keep our wave rolling! Thanks very much for your consideration and support.


The Power of Second Chances: Alidia Hall

Alidia Hall was excited and hopeful for a chance reclaim her education. Alidia’s interest in YouthBuild Philly was sparked instantly when she learned about YouthBuild from her older sister. After getting pregnant with her first daughter and having to take care of her ill grandmother, Alidia made the hard decision to discontinue her education at her previous high school. For Alidia, YouthBuild signified a second chance in more ways than one. Once she turned 18 years old, she considered herself ready to take her next steps towards her education.

In Fall 2017, Alidia came to YouthBuild excited, happy and nervous for the journey ahead. At the time she was six months pregnant with her second child, but determined to push through and complete the six days of Mental Toughness Training. On the final day of Mental Toughness, the Class of 2018 made a powerful declaration of reclaiming their education as they marched down Broad Street with signs telling everyone in Philadelphia about their bold milestone. Even though Alidia was tired from the march as an expectant mother, she was beaming with pride and a sense of accomplishment. She completed the first step to changing her life for the better.

In Fall 2017, Alidia started the school year off strong. However, once she gave birth to her daughter that November the journey became a bit more difficult. She went on maternity leave and fell significantly behind in a lot of her classes with the added responsibilities of being a new parent. It became impossible for Alidia to finish the school year with all of the missed classes and assignments. “Once I realized that I couldn’t finish the year I was hurt because I really wanted to finish and move on,” Alidia says.

Despite the feelings of disappointment, Alidia wasn’t going to give up. “I wanted a fresh start,” she said – and was ambitious and determined to reapply for YouthBuild’s Class of 2019. “This is something that I needed to accomplish; I’m looking forward to walking across that (graduation) stage.” This feeling was reinforced when she watched the Class of 2018 (Alidia’s initial class) walk across the stage during her second Mental Toughness Training. “It could have been me,” she remembers thinking – but was inspired to seize this second opportunity to be the first of her 8 siblings to earn a diploma.

2018-2019: Alidia during the Acceptance March down Broad Street

Alidia started the 2018-2019 school year with a fresh vision for her career and future goals. During her first year at YouthBuild Philly, Alidia enrolled in the Child Development Associate (CDA) program to learn about the best practices of childcare. As a new mother, she applied what she learned to her own parenting. “I learned about different daycares, how to discipline and teach my child using words, and I was able to share parenting information with my daughter’s father,” Alidia explains. This year, Alidia decided on a different career path and enrolled in the Business Administration Scholar (BAS) program. With a passion for computers, Alidia now feels like she can pursue her passion and dream of earning a degree in Computer Engineering at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

On the BAS track, Alidia has blossomed as a student and as a person. “I am a very shy and quiet person by nature. As a BAS student I’m becoming more outspoken. My instructor Ms. Melissa is helping me to overcome that obstacle,” Alidia says. Her favorite memory as a BAS student thus far was presenting a group project during orientation where she had to pitch and explain a product to her class. Her group worked together to pitch a S’more toaster and persuade their peers to buy it. Her group won.

Aside from the academics, one of the aspects that Alidia truly appreciates about her YouthBuild experience is the sense of family. “When I was on maternity leave Ms. Doris, my mentor, reached out to Old Navy and nominated me and my family for clothing donations,” Alidia says. When she came back from maternity leave in December, she was surprised with three boxes filled with clothing, toys and books for her and her daughters. “Christmas was good. I am not the type of person to ask for help unless it is a last resort. It meant a lot that YouthBuild helped me without me asking for support. It’s really a family,” Alidia explains.

“I am very glad that I reapplied. So far, so good,” says Alidia. Currently, she has been doing very well and has been feeling motivated more than ever. “I am more focused. This year feels different,” says Alidia. She is right. As a member of the Class of 2019, she is dedicated to “showing up and showing out”, which means coming to do the work and bringing her best. “When I show up and show out, I am an engaged participant in my classes. This year feels like a refresher. I’ve used my second year to my advantage and I can show my classmates how things work around YouthBuild,” Alidia explains.  

Sometimes, second time’s a charm.

Alidia’s daughters: Leyonna (2 years old) & Laniyah (10 Months old)



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.