Class of 2015 Fall Graduation

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Today, 38 YouthBuild students in the Class of 2015 received their diplomas in a small ceremony at Zion Baptist Church.  These students represent some of the most resilient young men and women to enroll at YouthBuild, because they endured obstacles during the year that prevented them from graduating in August and persisted anyway, thanks to our REVIVE and Fall School programs.  Fall School Graduation is a celebration of accomplishment and persistence, and a wonderful reminder to never, ever give up.

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This year’s Keynote Speaker was Aurelina Rojas, the Director of HR at Saxbys Coffee.  Aurelina also received an award for her commitment to YouthBuild Philly’s mission.  Saxbys Coffee has hired four YouthBuild alumni in the past year!

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Student speaker Roberto gave an encouraging speech to students about embracing the journey ahead of them, and student speaker (and “Best Poet” award winner) Aushanae read an original poem called “Flowers.”

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A total 156 young adults have now graduated from the Class of 2015.

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Congrats to our newly minted alumni! You are an inspiration and we can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

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Graduation 2014: Highlights, Photos, and Speeches

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On August 29, 122 YouthBuild students graduated in front of friends and family at a ceremony held in Zion Baptist Church’s sanctuary on North Broad Street.  Hundreds of guests attended, as well as Class of 2015 applicants currently going through Mental Toughness Training.

We were honored to welcome Marcus Allen, CEO of Big Brothers Bialleng Sisters SEPA (BBBSSEPA), as our keynote speaker this year. A strong proponent of service and mentoring, Mr. Allen thoughtfully included references to our students’ individual accomplishments as community leaders.  Prior to joining BBBSSEPA, Mr. Allen was the CEO of ACHIEVEability, a non-profit that provides housing – which YouthBuild students help maintain.

April Broaddus, Class of 2005, delivered a rousing alumni address encouraging graduates to be proud of their pathway through YouthBuild, and to recognize past setbacks as opportunities.

Don’t think that just because you didn’t take the traditional path in your education that you can’t go as far as anyone else. At YouthBuild, our core values make us that much stronger! Don’t think it stops here. Don’t limit yourself because you’re afraid to compete or fail! People who stumble can still be incredibly successful. Michael Jordan lost many a game before the Bulls hit their winning streak! The Beatles, one of the greatest selling groups of all time, were turned down by a record company because they didn’t like the sound and style of their music. Walt Disney was fired from his job as a cartoon artist because they said he lacked creativity. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was on welfare when she wrote some her best work to date! You’re gonna stumble. You’re gonna fall. You’re gonna have to work twice as hard as you did while you were here. But it’s worth it!

Broaddus is a Rosemont College graduate and now has her own online radio show.  (We also learned just prior to the ceremony that she went through ACHIEVEability’s program after graduating from YouthBuild, which made it all the more fitting for her and Mr. Allen to speak this year.)

This year’s student speakers were Perseverance Award Winner Tania Garcia, Valedictorian Jamal Johnson, and Salutatorian Carmen Williams. 

Tania wrote her speech, which we’ve excerpted here, about resilience:

Today I am here standing not just for my accomplishments, but I am also standing with the rest of the YouthBuild student body that showed perseverance by taking back our education.tania

My words to the Mental toughness applicants are, “Don’t Give Up!” I know that’s what everyone says, but really, Do Not  Give Up. You will understand the importance of these words in a year when you graduate. A lot of people told me not to give up and it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but I’m so glad they reminded me every time they saw me.

To the 2014 YouthBuild students: I hope that our friendships don’t end here. I also hope that we all remember this chapter of our lives as a great example of our ability to overcome.

Jamal’s speech included shout-outs to fellow students who have demonstrated YouthBuild’s core values:

Living life along the “YouthBuild Way” has been an inspirational experience for me, as well as all my peers throughout this past year. I am reminded often of the hills, valleys and winding roads along the way that we faced individually and collectively, but here we are Class of 2014. We’re not completely at our destination, but we’re merely at a pit-stop. This pit-stop is for us to refuel and continue on to the path that has been destined for us. We have exemplified YouthBuild Philly’s core values of Respect, Excellence and Perseverance, not only academically, but socially.

This year has been a an emotional roller coaster for me, but I have been willing to give up sleep and many other things to be able to finish my projects, essays, and other requirements to be here to graduate with you all today and I know many of you all have that same similar experiences as well. The importance to post-secondary endeavors has been instilled in us to transition to college or employment, because we want that high school diploma and vocational training. We want to be successful, self-sufficient young entrepreneurs.

Finally, Carmen’s speech acknowledged the hard work ahead.  She compared herself to the Wingohocking St. house that she and other construction students were in the process of renovating this year, and put on her hard hat during her speech as a symbol of her ability to rebuild her own life and the world around her:

When I arrived at the Wingohocking Project, handed this unfamiliar yellow piece of plastic, I noticed I had two things in common with the house we were about to build: we were both broken and yet we both had the potential to be restored. This house and I were ridged materials, skeletons of who we had been designed to be left unoccupied, un-loved, and un-kempt.  It was there, in that abandoned home, that I openly expressed pain for the first time. I never wanted to face reality. Reality meant my parents were never coming back from the grave and life would not cradle a lost cause. But it was in this place, in remnants of what was once a child’s bedroom, that I saw a reflection of who I wanted to become.

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The epiphany that we were a product of ourselves and not our environment was real and perhaps harsh. Our team had two options; we could allow life the satisfaction of completing its work of demolition or we could take control and reconstruct. For me, that meant giving up what I wanted; fast money, and false happiness for what I needed: Stability. Love. To know I had value. I had to remove the excess debris because building anything takes time, patience, and the removal of things that stand in your way.

Today I stand before you wearing yet another hat — my graduation cap. Today is a day to celebrate but let’s also remember that we are all still works in progress, all of us. Which is why we still need our hard hats. I cannot condone the cliché speech that everything will be alright if you try. Class of 2014, we need one another. Life will continue to throw obstacles our way. Whether we’re physically together or not, we will continue to wake up each day and put on our tool belts, reconstructing lives one nail, stud, and door frame at a time.

At the ceremony, we were pleased to award scholarships to twelve graduates, thanks to individuals who gave to the Class of 2014 Scholarship Fund.  The Young Friends of YouthBuild Philly raised an entire scholarship at a bowling fundraiser last month, which went to De’Shaun Burton.  Carmen Williams received the John Gallery Leadership Scholarship.  The families of  Steven Lawrence and Sean Bolden – former YouthBuild students who, sadly, passed away a few years ago – also raised funds for scholarships, which went to Jamal Johnson, Quadier Timms, and Malik Robinson.

The ceremony was also an opportunity to thank our supporters in the community.  We recognized the following individuals for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of YouthBuild students:

  • Champion Award – Carmen Ferrigno, VP of Communications at Saint-Gobain North America
  • Legacy Award – Makeeda Holley, Director of Workforce Development at 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
  • Meaningful Impact Award – Hope Clayton, Admissions Counselor at Esperanza College

To see more photos from graduation, visit our Facebook photo album.  NewsWorks and ABC6 also covered the event!

Introducing Year 2 (What’s Next for 2014)

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Although our alumni will be employed and enrolled with organizations outside of YouthBuild, we will continue to offer supports and programming (e.g., TransPasses and counseling) that officially constitute a “Year 2” of our program while our graduates adjust to postsecondary education and employment. This  year of continued support will help them transition fully and smoothly into colleges and careers to achieve long-term success.

So don’t worry, you’ll still be hearing from the Class of 2014 as they embark on their next steps over the course of Year 2! Stay tuned for success stories and updates.

Students Attend US2020 Announcement

_MG_6915_webIn late May, YouthBuild Philly students attended a press event at the Franklin Institute, where Mayor Nutter
announced that Philadelphia was one of seven U.S. cities to with the US2020 City Competition.  With funding from this competition, the Philadelphia US2020 Coalition will develop innovative models for increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals mentoring youth, particularly female, low-income and minority youth in Philadelphia.

YouthBuild Philly’s participation in the official announcement emerged from the school’s ongoing “Building Our Future Together” partnership with Saint-Gobain Corporation, a building materials manufacturer headquartered in King of Prussia and a partner in the Philadelphia US2020 Coalition.

_MG_6919webSaint-Gobain employees have mentored and volunteered alongside YouthBuild students on several occasions.  Just in the past year, Saint-Gobain (and subsidiary CertainTeed) employees have led a design charrette to involve students in the planning process of LEED-targeted renovations on Wingohocking Street, helped with the physical deconstruction of the abandoned Wingohocking properties, and mentored Green Construction and Advanced Construction students at a lunch-and-learn designed to help students take full advantage of the International GreenBuild Conference held in Philadelphia in November.
Carmen Williams ’14, an Advanced Construction YouthBuild Philly student who attended the design charrette and GreenBuild Conference, delivered remarks at the US2020 announcement and provided a student’s perspective on the benefits of mentoring programs:

_MG_6909_webWhat I have learned in the last year is that when you invest in young people – when you support, mentor and guide them – you can change the trajectory of their life.  When young people have their eyes opened to experiences and opportunities they never thought were possible – they can dream bigger and their reality can be so much more.  That’s why I am so excited about the life changing potential that this funding will have on young people in Philadelphia, whose dreams and imaginations can be opened up to new possibilities. 

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Following the event, Carmen spoke to CBS 3 News and the Philadelphia Tribune, and described further the important role that mentors have played in her getting her life back on track after dropping out. The salutatorian of YouthBuild Philly’s Class of 2014, Carmen is now enrolled in English 101 at the Community College of Philadelphia and a valued employee at a Starbucks store in Center City Philadelphia.

For two students, an early graduation

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In Simran Sidhu’s TEDxPhiladelphia talk about YouthBuild Philly’s core strategies, she emphasized the importance of putting individual students and their needs at the center of our program design.  What this means, sometimes, is being willing to abandon or adjust existing program constraints if they don’t help students achieve success.

Last Friday’s community meeting offered a great example of this flexibility and student-centered focus – but it requires a little explanation first:

YouthBuild Philly is housed in the OIC building on North Broad St., which we share with several other non-profits including Philadelphia OIC, Inc., which owns the building.  In early February, Philadelphia OIC contracted Graboyes Commercial Window company to replace the building’s windows.

When several glass workers showed up at our school to replace the windows, YouthBuild’s Director of Vocational Training Marty Molloy saw an opportunity.  He approached the Graboyes team and arranged for one student – Jerome Kinard – to pursue an internship with the firm.  (Here are photos from Jerome’s first day on the job.)

In April, Jerome took time off from his internship to attend the YouthBuild USA Conference of Young Leaders, and Aaron Warren filled in during that week – which led to his being brought on as a full-time intern as well.

Aaron and Jerome have both fulfilled their diploma requirements (attendance, coursework, vocational certifications, service in the community) with YouthBuild already, and Graboyes was eager to hire both of them and help them enter a union apprenticeship.  The only catch was that Aaron and Jerome needed to have their actual high school diplomas; fulfilling the requirements wasn’t enough.  Unfortunately, YouthBuild traditionally only gives out diplomas in August or November at our graduation ceremonies.

When presented with this problem, however, school leadership decided to make an exception.  It didn’t make sense to hold Jerome and Aaron back when they had fulfilled their requirements and had worked hard to earn new opportunities.

So last week we awarded the two students their signed and seal-stamped high school diplomas.  They are now the first graduates in the Class of 2014!

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It would have been anticlimactic to just hand these hard-earned diplomas to the students, of course, so the school held a surprise ceremony during last Friday’s community meeting.  Jerome and Aaron wore their caps and gowns, we played Pomp and Circumstance over the speakers, and Simran awarded the students with their diplomas.  (Note: Jerome and Aaron will also walk in the official August graduation ceremony alongside their classmates and in front of their friends and family).

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The outpouring of support from Jerome and Aaron’s classmates was the highlight of the ceremony.  Many students still have some requirements to fulfill before August – and some may not graduate until November – but on Friday everyone celebrated this early graduation.  The room was filled to the ceiling with 2014 pride.

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We are so proud of Jerome and Aaron’s hard work at YouthBuild and with Graboyes – and of their classmates who continue to pursue excellence and demonstrate perseverance on their way to graduation.  Please join us in cheering on the Class of 2014 as they enter the home stretch!

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Congratulations Class of 2013!

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Our school reached a new milestone on August 23, when 127 students in the Class of 2013 received their diplomas at our 21st commencement ceremony.  As of Friday, more than 2,000 motivated young people have graduated from YouthBuild Philadelphia since the program’s founding in 1992.  The YouthBuild Philly movement has come a long way since our first class of sixteen graduates!

Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA
Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA

Many friends and supporters of the program joined us to celebrate the joyous occasion.  Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO of YouthBuild USA as well as YouthBuild founding staff member John Bell attended and handed out awards during the ceremony.  Other guests included our board members, representatives from local elected leaders’ offices, and staff from our funding and program partners.

This year’s commencement speaker was Martin Luther King III, who was organizing a march in Washington, D.C. the very next day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and his father’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.  YouthBuild USA was one of the many organizations involved in the Washington event over the weekend.

Mr. King’s speech tied the graduates’ accomplishments to the work yet to be done in the name of civil rights and improving communities.  “Civil rights is alive,” he said.  “And my dad would be telling us that we have to find a way to create jobs and opportunities.  The mantra in 1963 was Jobs and Freedom.  In 2013 it’s Jobs, Freedom and Justice.”

Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III

“Where you are in your lives is the result of the energy and the fact that you each of chosen to take a step to take charge for your future,” Mr. King said.  “While this is an important graduation for each of you – and it’s a huge step – it’s not the ending.  It really is the beginning of what you should do within your lives.”

Class of 2013 valedictorian Derrick Davenport also addressed his fellow graduates, as well as the applicants going through Mental Toughness Training to join the Class of 2014 who were also in the audience.  In a speech titled “Don’t Settle for Less, Just Do Your Best,” Derrick reflected on his transformation at YouthBuild, saying “With the help and guidance from teachers, staff, mentors and family members, I am no longer that kid on the stoop.  I’m the father paving the way for my son’s future.”

“Class of 2013, we’ve shown up and produced high quality work throughout the school year.  On the construction site we have learned the skills to build walls, insert drywall, prime and paint.  On academics, we’ve written about our own inspirational leaders, conducted research projects, written narrative essays, and shown motivation. But the journey can’t stop here.  A diploma isn’t enough.  Don’t be scared to force yourself to do better.  I challenge you to sacrifice the person you were for who you are willing to become.  You have proven that you are able to persevere through obstacles.  There are always going to be challenges throughout life, but you can’t let them stop you.   Always be excellent.  Excellence is a lifestyle; excellence is who you became and who you should continue to be.”

To the Mental Toughness applicants, Derrick said: “When there are moments of doubt telling you can’t do it, or you’re listening to people who say you can’t, the real question is: are you willing to work hard enough?”

Other speakers included Excellence Award winner Kyra Butler and Class of 2007 alumna Analicia Lindsay-Whitehead.

Class Valedictorian Derrick Davenport receives his diploma
Class Valedictorian Derrick Davenport receives his diploma from YouthBuild Philly Board Member Erin Horvat

Every year, YouthBuild presents a Legacy Award and a Meaningful Impact Award to partners and supporters of the program who have helped YouthBuild Philadelphia strengthen our program and pursuit of our mission, and paved the way for increased opportunities for our students.  This year we were proud to give the Legacy Award to Scott Emerick from YouthBuild USA and the Meaningful Impact Award to Dennis McDonough from Finishing Trades Institute.

To reiterate Mr. King’s insight, graduation marks the end of a year at YouthBuild – and the beginning of the rest of our graduate’s lives. All of our students have postsecondary plans ranging from full-time employment to the military, and 82 of Friday’s graduates intend to continue their education through college or trade school.  Many of our graduates will be the first in their families to go to college.

The costs of college are a significant consideration for YouthBuild students, who often must pay for their own tuition and supplies in addition to supporting themselves and their families.  For this reason, YouthBuild Philly runs a summer campaign to raise money for the Scholarship Fund.  Thanks to our generous individual donors and members of the YouthBuild Board of Trustees as well as the Young Friends of YouthBuild (who organized a bowling fundraiser at North Bowl), we received enough contributions to give out twenty scholarships this year.  Students can use these awards for tuition or other costs not covered by financial aid or scholarships, such as supplies.

To see more photos from graduation, check out our album on Facebook.  Use the comments section below to leave a note of congratulations to our graduates.

MLK III to Deliver Keynote Address at YouthBuild’s Class of 2013 Commencement

Community activist and son of Dr. Martin Luther King will address former high school dropouts who earned their diploma through the transformational education and community service program.

Philadelphia, Pa – August 20, 2013 – Over 100 former high school dropouts ages 18-21 will receive their diplomas from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School at a commencement ceremony on Friday, August 23rd at 10 a.m. Martin Luther King III will attend the ceremony and deliver the keynote address.

The commencement ceremony will celebrate students’ growth and achievements over the past year. All YouthBuild Philadelphia graduates have transformed their lives by earning a diploma as well one or more industry recognized job certifications through rigorous academics, hands-on vocational training, and community service. Most students in the Class of 2013 plan to continue their education at a college or trade school after graduating from YouthBuild Philadelphia.

Human rights advocate and community activist Martin Luther King III will deliver a speech to the graduates and their families at the ceremony. Mr. King is currently planning a march on Saturday August 24th in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and his father Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Mr. King will travel to Philadelphia for the day on Friday to attend the YouthBuild graduation.

“We are deeply honored that Mr. King is joining us for this joyous occasion,” said Simran Sidhu, Executive Director of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. “The national YouthBuild movement of young people reclaiming their education while rebuilding their communities has its roots in the twentieth century civil rights movement. As our country reflects on the past 50 years of change and progress and continues to push towards equality, committing ourselves to the education, training, and unique promise of each young person must be a priority.”

The ceremony will additionally feature remarks by selected Class of 2013 graduates and a YouthBuild Class of 2007 alumna, as well as musical performances by two students. YouthBuild Philadelphia will present its annual Legacy Award to Scott Emerick, Vice President of Education for YouthBuild USA, and the Meaningful Impact Award to Dennis McDonough of the Finishing Trades Institute.

Please note that due to very limited space, this is is an invite-only event.  Only press, invited guests of YouthBuild Philly, and ticket-holding friends and family of graduates may attend.  

Building Bridges at Peirce College

Last Wednesday was a busy day!  We celebrated the completion of two summer bridge programs – first at CCP, and then later in the afternoon at Peirce College in Center City.

Six students successfully completed a college skills preparation course (“PRC 100”) at Peirce and received certificates of completion.  During the ceremony, staff encouraged students enrolling at Peirce in the fall to advocate for themselves and utilize the school’s student resources to ensure success.  “Everyone can go to college, but not everyone can stay in college,” one of them pointed out.  “You have to be persistent.”

Another professor reflected on education as an ongoing, never-ending process.  In our fast-changing world, continuing one’s education throughout adulthood is a must, she said.  “You have to keep moving and keep going.”

This was our first summer of bridge programming in partnership with Peirce.  Kudos to the Peirce and YouthBuild staff – and, of course, the students – who have done so much to build this bridge to new opportunities!

Thaddeus Stevens College Summer Bridge Closing Celebration

A unique feature of YouthBuild we like to advertise to prospective students is that dropouts who apply to YouthBuild could be enrolled in college courses – or even living on a college campus – less than a year after applying.   Students who apply (in July, let’s say), are accepted, and complete their academic requirements on time  could be enrolled in a college course by the next June, if not sooner!  This seeming time warp is created by the multiple summer bridge programs we have built with our wonderful postsecondary partners.

For several summers, eligible students who have completed their academic YouthBuild requirements by the end of Sixth Session have participated in dual-enrollment programs at partner postsecondary institutions over the summer.  Students who “bridge” into partner institutions after receiving their YouthBuild diploma have the advantage of knowing what to expect, and can hit the ground running.  The summer bridge programs – which are free to students – expose students to college life and postsecondary academics while they continue to receive YouthBuild supports.  The programs enable students to start earning college credits as soon as possible, a jump-start that helps them manage the consts of continuing their education.

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2013 bridge students with their certificates of completion!

Last week, a cohort of ten students finished their summer bridge program at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, one of our original postsecondary partners.  As in years past, the college hosted a small, heartfelt ceremony to celebrate the bridge students’ perseverance through the program.

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Thaddeus Stevens is a small college in Lancaster, PA and about a 90-minute drive from YouthBuild – so our students stayed in the dorms this summer.  They were regularly visited by YouthBuild staff, helped each other with homework, and also received support from YouthBuild alumni already enrolled at Thaddeus Stevens.  Regular readers may remember Ciera Russum from the Greene St. ribbon-cutting – she just finished her first year at Thaddeus Stevens and was out there this summer helping bridge students acclimate to college life and postsecondary academics!

2013 bridge students with Cierra Russum ’12 (right) and Emada Williams ’12 (left)

At the moment, seven YouthBuild students are confirmed to enroll at Thaddeus Stevens College in the fall.  We are waiting to confirm that three more meet all the requirements.  Congratulations to all our Thaddeus Stevens Bridge students on completing the program – a considerable milestone – and many thanks to the administrators and educators at Thaddeus Stevens who have supported and taught our students this summer.  You’ve help our students reach new heights, and we couldn’t do it without you.

Watch out for more posts as we celebrate the completion of several other summer bridge programs this week!

YB Student Organizes Awards Ceremony at Project HOME

While volunteering at Project HOME’s 1515 Fairmount residence, YouthBuild student Dominique had an idea:  What if the organization gave out awards recognizing the residents for their growth and resiliency?

Project HOME empowers people to break the cycle of homelessness through housing and services, and the 1515 Fairmount residence is home to men and women in recovery after struggling with mental illness.

As someone who had experienced setbacks in her own life, Dominique recognized her own struggle in the struggles of the residents.  She wanted to support them, and she knew that their continual efforts to overcome personal challenges deserved recognition.

Dominique’s idea was inspired by the R.E.P. days that we have at the end of each session at YouthBuild.  R.E.P. days include presentations of what students have learned, and awards for students recognizing their high attendance and embodiment of YouthBuild’s core values (Respect, Excellence, and Perseverance).  Dominique remembered how encouraged and inspired she was when she received her first R.E.P. day award.  So she suggested the idea of an awards ceremony to the Volunteer Coordinator at Project HOME.

After two weeks of preparation, YouthBuild Philly and Project HOME staff joined Dominique and the 1515 Fairmount residents on July 19 for a moving and inspiring awards ceremony.  Project HOME staff created the awards for each resident, recognizing them for their growth and resiliency, as well as their learning accomplishments and service contributions.

Dominique gave a short speech before giving out the awards:

_MG_3012 I just want to say that it’s a privilege and an honor to be before amazing individuals such as you guys.  You have all
motivated me because of the trials and tribulations you have overcome.  In my school, this is known as perseverance.  Perseverance is a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failures, or opposition.  I am here today for this reason.

I feel that if anyone should get a chance of being celebrated it should be strong and courageous people like you.  I hope this is a moment that you all cherish.  Today is a huge day for me because I get to give awards to well deserving people.

I am so grateful that I get to see what not giving up looks like.  Each of you have an amazing story to tell and a gift that can impact the world.  I just want to say, don’t give up.  I truly believe that I am standing in front of people who got knocked down, but got up by any means and made a complete transformation.  That to me shows true dignity.  Today we’re here to celebrate you as individuals, but I am a firm believer in friendships and you have all gone through this process and succeeded together so don’t forget to keep these friendships and let them blossom.

I want to thank Project HOME for allowing us in their space and being so generous and really caring about the lives they come in contact with.  Also, I want to thank YouthBuild for the encouragement and resources to pursue the thing I am passionate about.

We applaud the residents for the huge changes that they have made and are making in their lives, and thank Project HOME for everything that they do – including their support of Dominique’s idea!  Dominique plans to pursue a career in social work, and we believe she has an exciting and successful career of helping others to look forward to.

YouthBuildStudent Honored for National Service in Citywide Ceremony

66820_10151535129269916_330622103_nEarlier this year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced to his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors that April 9, 2013 would mark the first-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service in cities across the country. This celebration – led by Mayor Nutter as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) – was envisioned as a way for mayors to highlight the impact of national service being done by citizens, AmeriCorps members, and SeniorCorps members in their community. (Click here to watch Mayor Nutter discuss the Day of Recognition on MSNBC’s Morning Joe – jump to 00:59 for the interview).

YouthBuild Philly provided the location for the Mayor’s celebration in Philadelphia, organized by the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. The highlight of the ceremony featured the announcement of Mayor’s Awards for Distinguished Service, recognizing AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps members and alumni in Philadelphia for their commitment to serving their community.

We were excited to nominate YouthBuild student and AmeriCorps member Dominique Brown. Community Projects Coordinator (and full-time AmeriCorps member) Zuri Stone wrote Dominique’s nomination letter, noting that

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Zuri and Dominique

Dominique’s long term goal is to go to college and become a social worker. Her life experiences and service involvement have transformed her into a caring person, with a passion now to make sure no child goes through what she has gone through and that no struggling individual is left to fend for themselves…

…The thing about Dominique that further distinguishes her from others that are doing service often is her inquisitiveness. There is a curiosity in her mind to not only help others, but to understand the deeper meaning behind the issues themselves. She never accepts her service as a shallow one-time event, rather she inquires on the history of those she works with as well as the root of the issues they are facing. After attending the AIDS Walk with YouthBuild, she later suggested that we support more walks and eventually she help us coordinate our participation in the Alzheimer’s Walk.

There is no doubt in my mind that Dominique is the most deserving candidate for this award. She is taking her life experiences and transforming them into a positive movement to help her community. It has been an honor to know Dominique as a student and I cannot wait to see her growth into a college campus activist and furthermore into a personal activist for each and every one of her clients as a social worker.

Dominique was selected as an outstanding nominee by the award committee, and had the opportunity to meet high-profile champions of national service – U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer (who, in her remarks, called Philadelphia the “City of National Service Love.” We hope the nickname sticks!), Deputy Mayor and Managing Director Richard Negrin, and, of course, Mayor Nutter.

548916_10151535129739916_525785131_nAt the end of the ceremony, Mayor Nutter announced the final award-winners, and Dominique received the Mayor’s Award for Distinguished National Service!

We’d like to congratulate Dominique on her well-deserved award, as well as the other winners and outstanding nominees. We thank Mayor Nutter for his commitment to service and leadership in instituting the Mayors Day of Recognition, and thank the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service for organizing this event! Service is at the core of YouthBuild’s program and values, and we were honored to help host a ceremony recognizing service and its best exemplars at our school!

Check out our Facebook photo album for more photos from this exciting day!