Getting Ready for MLK Day 2017!

Preparations for our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service are in full swing!fullsizerender

Last week, YouthBuild Philly’s Community Project Coordinators traveled to Ziegler Elementary in Northeast Philadelphia to begin stenciling the murals that our students and volunteers will paint next Monday. We’re excited to report that Ziegler students are already looking forward to the new murals, and even helped with some of the stenciling!

Our project at Ziegler marks the 5th year that YouthBuild Philly students have spent their MLK Day repainting a Philadelphia public school. Our past projects have taken us to Longstreth Elementary, Morton ElementaryMcMichael Elementary, and Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy.

Education will be the focus of many MLK Day projects taking place throughout the region, as reported in The Philadelphia Tribune.  We are proud to join others in investing time and resources in local schools!

In addition to painting murals in the school hallways, our project volunteers will be creating care packages and blankets for shelter residents, and installing Solar Gard products in the school’s auditorium.

Volunteer slots for our project are full; however, anyone interested in volunteering on MLK Day can go to the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service website to find other opportunities.

MLK Day 2016 – Murals, School Improvement, Neighborhood Service, and Partnerships

For YouthBuild students and staff – and thousands of other Philadelphians – MLK Day represents a day of service and reflection rather than a day off.  This year, our school community spent Monday engaged in two ambitious service projects in North Philadelphia – one at Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy (a K-8 public school) and another at our Nicetown worksite and the Nicetown CDC headquarters.

At the end of the day we had repainted the Nicetown CDC walls, created over 40 original murals in the hallways at Dr. Ethel Allen, and made dozens of blankets and literacy packets for pre-K students.  We also made great headway at our worksite in Nicetown, where Building Trades students are close to completing the full-gut rehabilitation of two formerly vacant rowhomes.

We are proud of our students for the powerful community impact that achieve year-round, but yesterday was particularly impressive.  We owe great thanks to the volunteers from DMi Partners, Saint-Gobain North America, Starbucks, VILLA, and TD Bank who worked alongside us to affect change in Philadelphia!

Read on for details and pictures:

Transforming Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy

This year’s signature MLK Day project took place at Dr. Ethel D. Allen Promise Academy, a K-8 public elementary school in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Except for a few bulletin boards, the school’s hallways were previously bare and did not reflect the school community’s creativity, ambition, and passion for learning.  YouthBuild Philly offered to add several murals, and the school’s principal agreed to open the school as a service site on MLK Day.  In just a few hours, many well-organized teams of students, staff and volunteers painted over 40 murals in the two-story school.  Take a look at these before (left) and after (right) shots:


And click through to see the activity in process:

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A YouthBuild Tradition of School Transformation

This marks the fourth year that YouthBuild has contributed supplies and person-power to a school transformation project on MLK Day.  In past years, we have planned and executed school makeovers at Longstreth Elementary, Morton Elementary, and McMichael Elementary.  Our students are passionate about giving back to local schools – including the ones they attended as children – so that the next generation of students will have greater opportunities thanks to a safe and supportive learning environment.


Service in Nicetown

YouthBuild Philly organized a second service site at the Wingohocking St. worksite and at the nearby Nicetown Community Development Corporation offices.  Nicetown CDC owns the two Wingohocking St. rowhomes under renovation by YouthBuild students.  On MLK Day, students worked with Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed volunteers to hang drywall in both rowhomes, and volunteers from DMi Partners provided tech support and painting assistance to Nicetown CDC.

Partners Make it Possible

This year’s projects added up to a rather ambitious undertaking, one which would not have been successful without volunteer support from VILLA, Saint-Gobain North America, DMi Partners, and TD Bank.  Saint-Gobain and DMi sent volunteers to both project sites – and VILLA and Saint-Gobain provided financial support for supplies and food.  Along with service, teamwork is one of the central tenets of YouthBuild’s model, and we’re so glad to have partners who embody that quality and are willing to work with our students as they rebuild their lives and their community.  To all of our supporters — thank you!


A YouthBuild week in photos

Happy almost-Halloween! We love these photos of our students volunteering at last night’s Haunted House at the Athletic Recreation Center in Brewerytown.  Service comes in many forms, from helping to haunting!

Today marks the end of Session One, which is YB-speak for the first six weeks of vocational training and academic preparation. After a transition week, students currently on the worksite will switch over to academics and vice versa.  We can already see big changes in our students at the end of this first session, and a vibrant school community has formed.  Here are a few highlights from this week.  No more scary masks from this point forward, we promise!

Automotive Day at Community College of Philadelphia

Although school only started last month, students are already exploring career and college options through field trips and college tours. For example, this week our Postsecondary Career Development department took a small group of students to the Community College of Philadelphia’s West Philadelphia campus to learn more about the Automotive Technology programs offered there.

Engaging Academics

From writing autobiographies to isolating strawberry DNA, students who started the year in academic training have shown consistent creativity and curiosity in the classroom. The student who took these pictures in her science class remarked, “science class at YouthBuild is way better than your average high school!”

Hands-on Vocational Training and Service

Students in vocational training this session focused not only on developing their technical skills and professionalism, but also on using those skills in service to the community. For example, our Business Administration Scholars put their customer service and administration skills to good use at SHARE Foods, a community food bank in North Philadelphia, by packing and managing the food inventory.  During the last week of Session One, many Academic teachers visited worksites to see what their students had been up to and to start building relationships with students in anticipation of next session.  Here’s Language Arts teacher Ms. Sandra making a difference at SHARE:

After-school service opportunities

12189004_157508587933954_4867743644017313551_nOur Community Projects Coordinators are working hard to connect YouthBuild students to service opportunities throughout the city.  In September, CPCs organized over 50 hours’ worth of service opportunities for YouthBuild students, and have even more planned through December. Service offers YouthBuild students an opportunity to develop their leadership skills, connect with a broader community, and enjoy the experience of giving back.  We love this photo from a math tutoring session earlier this week!

This is just a small sample of photos representing all that happens in a week at YouthBuild. We’ve had a great first six weeks, and are looking forward to next session!

Photos: MLK Day at McMichael Elementary with Starbucks!

For the past two years, YouthBuild Philly staff and students have commemorated the legacy of Dr. King on MLK Day by repainting elementary schools (see 2013, 2014 posts).  Last Monday, we continued this tradition by repainting the hallways, stairways, gym and auditorium at McMichael Elementary in the Mantua section of the city.  In some of the school’s classrooms, volunteers also created blankets and care packages for Philadelphians in need.

For this year’s project we proudly partnered with local Starbucks locations, whose employees joined us at McMichael Elementary.  You’ll see them working hard in the photos below – they’re in the green shirts.  We’ve had volunteer days with Starbucks employees in the past, and every project generates new relationships and ideas.  We are grateful to them for helping us improve the McMichael facilities, and excited to continue working with them as a service and employment partner!

Business Administration Scholars profiled in SHARE Food Newsletter

This school year, YouthBuild Philly students in the Business Administration track began volunteering at the SHARE food warehouse in North Philadelphia to develop their administration, operations and customer service skills while serving their community.

In this month’s community newsletter, SHARE highlighted some of the BAS students who volunteered over the holidays on one of the winter’s coldest days.  We are very proud of our students’ service to food-insecure Philadelphians, and also proud to have SHARE as one of our service partners!  Check out the newsletter clip below, and visit to learn more about the food warehouse’s program

Perseverance Prevails

Also working in the warehouse on that bitterly cold day were three teens from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

YouthBuild offers a unique, one-year program that provides high school dropouts a chance to earn their diplomas while learning vital job skills and engaging in valuable community service. Just over 200 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 21 attend YouthBuild, which is located on Broad Street, just north of Girard Avenue in Philadelphia.

Christian, Alonzo, and Anthony each have experienced hardship in their young lives, but with YouthBuild’s encouragement and well-structured one-year program, they have been able to concentrate on their studies while also developing marketable skills that will help ensure gainful employment. Along with their fellow students, they attend class and devote several hours each week to on-the-job training. Here at SHARE, these friendly and focused young men are learning to use equipment, discovering the basics of retail marketing, and coming to terms with the value of following instructions to complete their assigned tasks.

SHARE’s Executive Director Steveanna Wynn practices tough loves when it comes to the YouthBuild students. If they complain about having to walk quickly through the vast warehouse spaces, she points out that although old enough to be their grandmom, she makes that same trek several times each day, no matter how low the temperature dips. And last September, when Mother Nature decided to offer up a few final scorching days, Steveanna insisted that vegetable harvesting continue, despite the intense heat. These are lessons well learned—that completing what is expected of you is not optional.

YouthBuild has three core values: excellence, respect, and perseverance. The school believes that every student, regardless of his or her past, can embrace these values and achieve anything. SHARE is honored to be helping these students realize their potential, and is grateful for the contribution they are making to reducing hunger among the region’s low-income households.

YouthBuild Philly and Saint-Gobain Team Up to Rebuild and Give Back


Since May 2012, YouthBuild Philly students have been in the process of renovating two adjoining properties in the Nicetown section of the city, transforming previously abandoned eyesores into LEED-targeted homes for low-income residents.


Last Thursday, Saint-Gobain employees from the corporation’s King of Prussia headquarters braved near-freezing temperatures to volunteer alongside the students.  In addition to installing Saint-Gobain Corporation fencing product along the edge of the property, teams of students and volunteers worked together to frame new walls and windows and reinforce the structures’ existing brickwork.

The Nicetown properties still need several months’ worth of work before completion, but the partnership strives to support the surrounding community in the meantime as well.  In the spirit of the coming Thanksgiving holiday, Saint-Gobain employees and YouthBuild students collected canned and boxed food and brought those donations to the worksite.

The food was given to the Nicetown Community Development Corporation’s food cabinet, and will be distributed to food-insecure families in the surrounding neighborhood.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are thankful to have partners and supporters in the Greater Philadelphia community like Saint-Gobain Corporation and its employees, who are committed to supporting our students and their efforts to improve the community.

YouthBuild Philly highlighted in national service/education report

Last month, America’s Promise Alliance released a report on The Role of National Service in Closing the Graduation Gap.”  This report coincided with the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, which since 1994 has connected volunteers to community needs, including educational attainment and access to quality education.

Much of the report focuses on how outside volunteers have helped students succeed in US schools and increased the national graduation rate. However, the report also pointed out that community service and volunteering can help older students stay motivated and connected to their school through a renewed sense of self and purpose.  The report highlighted YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild Philly in particular, incorporating quotes from Simran Sidhu and Dorothy Stoneman on why service is a cornerstone of the YouthBuild model:

“Providing service in communities, making a difference, producing something of value has a profound influence on self-respect, identity and the career choices young people make — especially when they are in a group that has been considered worthless. For young men of color, it has  a huge impact to be visible on the street doing something positive and tangible for  their community — building affordable housing for their own neighborhoods.”

– Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO, YouthBuild USA

“This kind of tangible service changes our students’ relationship with the community so that they go from being the problem to being the problem-solvers.  Our students wear their hard hats and tool belts because they want to be seen in them.  they’re so proud. ”

– Simran Sidhu, Executive Director, YouthBuild Philly


The report also noted that youth who volunteer are more likely to find employment and less likely to disconnect.  Studies of YouthBuild programs, also summarized in the report, found that members who completed a year of AmeriCorps service were twice as likely to go to college as those who did not complete the year, and five times more likely to attend college than non-AmeriCorps members.  There’s a lot to gain by giving back.


Read the summary and full report here.

Philly AmeriCorps Launch 2013

Last month, YouthBuild Philly joined other AmeriCorps programs and service partners for a celebration and ceremony kicking of a year of service for current AmeriCorps members in the Philadelphia region.

AmeriCorps is an important part of our program and a valued partner in the YouthBuild movement.  Many of our staff are full-time AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps VISTAs, and all of our students are part-time AmeriCorps members who provide hundreds of hours of service over the course of their year at YouthBuild.

City and service partners gathered on September 27th at City Hall for the official launch and swearing-in ceremony, which included a recitation of the AmeriCorps Pledge:

I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

We thank Philly’s AmeriCorps members for their commitment to service, and wish them a wonderful and rewarding year!

Fun and service in the sun!

Last month, YouthBuild Philly students in the IT & Business administration vocational track participated in the second annual Green Apple Day of Service by cleaning solar panels on top of the Crane Arts building in South Kensington, where our partners at Solar States are headquartered.

The 2013 Green Apple Day of Service featured 2,100 service projects in all 50 states and more than 30 countries.  We were proud to be part of this service movement aimed at creating  healthy, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly learning environments.  (The view wasn’t too bad, either.)

If you’d like to see more photos from the Solar States array and learn about the solar knowledge and business class they’re piloting with YouthBuild’s ITBA track, click here!

Remembering and Serving

For the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, students and staff at YouthBuild Philly took a day off from the first week of classes and came together as a school community for a service project in North Philadelphia. This school-wide day of service was among the thousands of projects happening around the country that day in honor of 9/11 victims and survivors and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.


Students broke up into their vocation groups, and each squad spent about an hour cleaning up a designated cluster of residential blocks surrounding the Martin Luther King Recreation Center.  All squads then came together to clean up the playground and fields at the rec center.

After group reflections and a school picture, YouthBuild Philly celebrated the successful completion of our first school-wide service project with pizza and a dance party.


Following the event, many students noted a connection between improving the neighborhood and reconnecting with their education.  One student noted: “I had a ball today with my YouthBuild Family!  We all were putting in high quality work and working together.  I really enjoyed cleaning up the community.”

Another wrote: “I’m loving this new path that I’m taking. I’m glad I was able to turn my life around before it was too late.  I have never been in an environment with such energy with my peers.”

We were also touched by the community’s response to our service.  One resident purchased cold beverages for the squad of students and staff working on her block. Another left us this voicemail message:

“Some of your students were just here on the block and they were doing community service. I just wanted to say they did a great job. I was just calling to say thank you. I’ve never seen that before. So thank you, and thank the children for doing a great job.”

Thank you Class of 2014 for your enthusiasm, hard work, and commitment to service!