YouthBuild Philly Receives Preservation Alliance Award

In June, a group of students and staff from YouthBuild Philly attended the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s Preservation Achievement Awards, an annual event recognizing important historical preservation work being done throughout the Philadelphia region.

photoThis year, the Preservation Alliance honored YouthBuild Philly with the John Andrew Gallery Community Action Award, for renovating 82 homes since 1992 and for the recent role that students have played in the preservation of the Cedar Grove mansion in Fairmount Park and, most recently, the John Coltrane House in Strawberry Mansion.

Over the past year, a select group of students have helped the Preservation Alliance stabilize the John Coltrane House, a National Historic Landmark that is also on the Alliance’s list of Endangered Properties. Built at the start of the 20th century, this house on North 33rd Street was home to jazz legend John Coltrane from 1952 to 1958 – a formative time in his creative development. The house has since been owned by Coltrane’s family, then by dedicated homeowners who are committed to preserving the space as a tribute to the musician’s legacy. The house is over a century old, vacant, and requires maintenance and repair to stay stable – particularly after an adjoining property caught fire a few years ago.

YouthBuild students preserved history by restoring the porch of the John Coltrane House.The students’ participation helped the Alliance maximize their use of a grant from the 1772 Foundation to perform emergency repairs on the front of the rapidly deteriorating property.

This project was featured on the PlanPhilly website in early 2014, which gained the attention of YouthBuild USA and the Corporation for Community and National Service. This publicity led to CNCS publishing an article on their website featuring student John Laderer – one of the three students to work on the house – and highlighting his YouthBuild experience. Before YouthBuild, “I didn’t realize how motivational and inspiring service could be,” John said in the article. “It’s uplifting. Everyone makes sure you put your best foot forward…It’s like a family.”

John and Luis Torres – another student who worked on the house – attended the Preservation Alliance’s Preservation Achievement Awards as representatives of YouthBuild students past and present.

#OneShot – Photos from Week 1

Participants in LEADERSHIP Philadelphia‘s 2014 Core Program joined YouthBuild’s Green Chasers and Advanced Legends building crews at the Wingohocking worksite on Wednesday. They will continue to join students every Wednesday over the next four weeks, and participate in the hands-on renovation of the two abandoned properties.

This partnership is an exciting opportunity – one of a kind, really, which is why we named the project “One Shot” – for executives in the region and YouthBuild students to work side by side and exchange ideas about what it takes to build a house and a career, make sacrifices, seize opportunities, and develop important life skills. We will continue to post updates, photos and anecdotes from students and Core Program participants as the project continues!

Below are some photos from Wednesday.  The task at hand was to tear out old drywall and lathe, and to sort the recyclable and non-recyclable materials according to LEED standards.

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Designing a Green Home

Today YouthBuild Philly’s Advanced Construction and Green Build squads met with project partners at a design charrette for this year’s LEED-targeted renovations on Wingohocking St. in Nicetown.  The Advanced Construction and Green Build students will be the primary groups working to renovate two adjoining and abandoned properties into comfortable, sustainable and affordable homes.  (You can view photos of the properties in their current state here and here.)

Some of you may be wondering what a “charrette” is (we certainly were!).  Its contemporary usage in the world of architecture and design means a collaborative design process.  But why is it called a charrette?  Lucas Hamilton from CertainTeed filled us in this morning with an interesting history of the word: In the early days of modern architectural education, students in France used to submit their 3-D models to their professors by way of a cart (or charrette, in French!) that traveled through the streets of Paris.  Students would work together up until the cart’s arrival – and sometimes travel with the cart if they weren’t done yet! – to put the finishing touches on their design.


The focus of today’s charrette was on creating a LEED-eligible home, built responsibly to support the natural environment and sustain a healthy indoor environment as well.  Students learned about sustainable building practices and products through presentations from Sustainable Solutions and CertainTeed.


In the afternoon, students and staff broke up into groups to discuss design elements that would qualify the building for LEED certification based on the six-category rating system.  For example, students researched water-efficient plants, fixtures and appliances to consider when finishing the property.  The last home that we renovated in conjunction with Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed received LEED Platinum Certification, and we are optimistic that the Wingohocking homes will receive certification as well!

It was exciting for our students to learn about and participate in the process of sustainable design. We are grateful to everyone who joined us for making this a meaningful and invigorating learning opportunity.

Our timeline for the project is such that the same YouthBuild students who are planning this renovation will see it through to completion and the ribbon-cutting ceremony – i.e., from idea to reality. Keep checking back for updates on Wingohocking St. as we move into the renovation stages this year!

Students Celebrate Home and Life Makeover

Over 200 of our students and staff gathered today with partners and local community members to celebrate the completion of a rehabilitated home in North Philadelphia.  We held the ribbon cutting ceremony with Resources for Human Development (RHD), our community development corporation partner on the rehabilitation of the home.Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Executive Director Simran Sidhu led the dedication ceremony, which included speeches from Solomon Jones, Community Outreach Director for Congressman Chaka Fattah, and RHD’s Affordable Housing Program Property Coordinator Sarah Duncan. Janita Oliver and Robin Knight, students from the construction training program, spoke about their experience rebuilding the home.

Class of 2009 technology student Felicia Wilder presented a refurbished computer to the new residents. Students from our health care program demonstrated their nurse aide skills and presented the new homeowners with a welcome basket during the ceremony. Smith & Solomon partnered with students in our new Commercial Driver’s License training program to showcase a “Big Rig” truck for attendees.

ABC6 Action News‘ Denise James covered the event

See more photos of the event.

Celebrating Global Youth Service Day

In honor of Global Youth Service Day, we partnered with the Nicetown Community Development Corporation (CDC) to begin the full-gut rehabilitation of a home at 4556 North Uber St. in the Nicetown area of Philadelphia. In conjunction with community volunteers, students and staff began the demolition phase of the severely damaged property that YouthBuild’s Class of 2010 will transform into a fully “green” and energy-efficient home. The demolition project was covered by FOX News, and photos are available here.Global Youth Service Day

Also at 4556 North Uber St., YouthBuild students and staff constructed a picnic table that was donated to the community.

Our students participated in other exciting projects across the city of Philadelphia to celebrate Global Youth Service Day:

  • Leading a discussion about violence in a North Philadelphia school
  • Designing and decorating (including assembling a collage) two rooms used for group sessions for teenagers of families who have lost someone to violence at Every Murder is Real in Germantown
  • Passing out flyers and information about anti-violence and domestic abuse in the Kensington area (in partnership with the Salvation Army)
  • Repairing and prepping a garden near Martin Luther King High School (in partnership with Keep America Beautiful)
  • Finishing two murals that will be donated to Winchester Recreation Center
  • Shadowing at Mothers in Charge (founded by mothers who have had a child die from violence)
  • Assist in serving a lunch in honor of the Holocaust Museum in Northeast Philadelphia (in partnership with the Jewish Community Center)

Spring Break in Guatemala

Twenty students and seven staff members completed YouthBuild Philadelphia’s first international service trip by traveling to Guatemala during the week of April 1-8, 2009.  We partnered with San Lucas Toliman Mission to volunteer services, including the construction of homes and the building of potable water systems. The students and staff members worked alongside villagers and were immersed in the Guatemalan culture.Spring Break in Guatamala

Over the last fifty years, initiatives begun by the Mission have changed the lives of the Mayan people that live in San Lucas. The small village of once cornstalk homes with thatched roofs–lacking both electricity and plumbing–is now a village of cement block and stone homes, built by local stone masons and carpenters trained in parish programs. Free healthcare and nutrition programs, including dental facilities and an eye clinic, are also available to the community.

A majority of our students have not traveled outside Philadelphia, let alone outside the United States. Students got to see first-hand how their skill sets are applicable on an international level.

From our Program Director Brian Leffler, Lead Chaperone for the trip:

The trip to Guatemala provided many students and staff the opportunity to experience things that they might not ordinarily experience while in Philadelphia, and provided all the chance to get to know each other on a deeper and more personal level.

During the first flight from JFK to San Salvador, most of the 27 of us were seated across four rows, and when the airplane took off from the runway, the roar from the students was deafening, and captured the terror of many of the students’ first airplane flight and the start of the adventure.

Our final destination was a beautiful lakeside village surrounded by three soaring volcanoes. The natural beauty of the area was captured with many pictures throughout the trip, from either lakeside or during the boat trip we took to neighboring lakeside villages.

Each evening, a chaperone led a reflection activity that gave all of us the chance to reflect on our experiences and share our impressions with each other.

One student in particular communicated a profound statement about the trip. While soaking in the Guatemala experience, he talked about how before YouthBuild, the only way that he thought he could have had the opportunity to leave the negative culture of his neighborhood was to sell drugs. He was so appreciative of YouthBuild for the experiences of the trip, and for the training that has given him another option to be successful in life.

See photos from the trip!

YouthBuild Philadelphia goes to Washington!

Today, YouthBuild Philadelphia led a “green” home building initiative at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in celebration of YouthBuild USA’s 30th anniversary. Roughly 20 students and instructors joined more than 100 other young leaders from YouthBuild programs across the country, in addition to public officials and community leaders, to frame the walls of an energy-efficient, affordable home for a low-income family in Brownsville, Texas. The participants raised the walls of the house during the afternoon, after which the pieces were sent to Brownsville for completion.

First Lady Michelle Obama keynoted in a special afternoon ceremony, commending the students on their commitment to green initiatives and community service. Obama was introduced by YouthBuild USA Founder and President Dorothy Stoneman. Senator John Kerry closed the ceremony, speaking about his long-time friendship with Stoneman, and reminiscing about his participation in encouraging the first federal funding support for YouthBuild.

While in the District, students also participated in a “green” school, learning about green collar jobs, green schools, energy responsibility and environmental awareness.  We incorporate many green practices into our rehabilitation projects, such as the installation of Energy Star Appliances and high efficiency heating systems, and the use of energy efficient insulation and windows. The March green building project exposed students to new green techniques and enhanced our stake in green initiatives in the Philadelphia community.

In fact, we’ve already identified one house rehabilitation project (in the Nicetown area of Philadelphia) for the 2009-2010 program year, where our students will incorporate all green building techniques.  Read more about our green building initiatives in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 21, 2009).

See more photos here.

Inspiring Communities Through Service on MLK Day

More than 200 of our students and staff members joined 65,000 volunteers throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware on Monday,mlk2009 Jan. 19, 2009 for the 14th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. YouthBuild students and staff organized and served as project leaders for a number of service projects around Philadelphia.

Green Playground Construction Project
At Greater Philadelphia’s signature MLK Day service site at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, YouthBuild students and staff led 150 community volunteers in the construction of a green playground structure and picnic tables, using recycled materials and lumber from sustainable woodlands. The playground structure and tables will be donated to Winchester Recreation Center in the spring. This project was sponsored by Hope worldwide.

YouthBuild students put the finishing touches on a picnic table
YouthBuild students put the finishing touches on a picnic table

The materials used for the playground structure were created from recycled, consumer household plastics. The wood was acquired from a sustainable woodland system. Read more about the materials used in the green playground project.

Highlights for the day included a visit by Senator Robert P. Casey, who stopped by for a few minutes to help drill in a few screws for the playground structure.
Read more from the Philadelphia Inquirer Online Desk and KYW Newsradio.

Vanguard Mentoring Project

Also at the Liacouras Center, nine professionals from Vanguard kicked off a long-term mentoring project with YouthBuild (with an emphasis on post-secondary preparation) by facilitating a skills training day. Vanguard volunteers facilitated four student workshops, including resume writing, mock interviews, basic presentation skills, and a group discussion about how education and career training are related to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of equality for all citizens.

Volunteers from Vanguard give students advice on college, career training, and personal development.
Volunteers from Vanguard give students advice on college, career training, and personal development.

RHD Ridge Avenue Shelter Painting Project
YouthBuild joined volunteers from fellow programs currently housed in the Philadelphia OIC Office Building (in North Philadelphia) to clean and paint 20,000 square feet of the RHD Ridge Avenue Shelter (1360 Ridge Ave.). Collaborative Partners included Youth Empowerment Services (YES), North Philadelphia E3 Center, Philadelphia OIC, MOCS – Mayor’s Office of Community Services and National Student Partnerships.

Weatherizing Homes for the Elderly
In the West Oak Lane area of Philadelphia, students and staff provided weatherization services for roughly fifteen low-income, elderly homeowners. The volunteer service included applying plastic sheeting to windows in order to seal in warm air and reduce the influx of cold air from outside. This project was coordinated in conjunction with PennSERVE: The Governor’s Office of Citizen Service.

Mural Painting
YouthBuild staff and volunteers designed and supervised the painting of a mural to commemorate MLK Day 2009. The mural was completed by a group of happy youth volunteers.

Volunteers painting the commemorative mural
Volunteers painting the commemorative mural