Get to know Rasheedah Collins.
This month we highlighted our new Director of Vocational Training, Rasheedah Collins! Read on to learn more about her ‘road less traveled’ to YouthBuild Philly, her transition into YB culture and what she likes to do outside of YouthBuild.
“My journey to YouthBuild was nothing short of crooked. There was no straight pathway,” says Rasheedah Collins, YouthBuild Philly’s new Director of Vocational Training as of August 2018. During her time as a Business Major at Lincoln University, Rasheedah was convinced that she wanted to pursue a career in financial services with aspirations of eventually working on Wall Street. While at Lincoln, Rasheedah joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. to gain leadership experience, and after graduating in 1998, her first job out of college was with the Police and Fire Credit Union managing commercial mortgages. Around two years into her first career foray, Rasheedah felt a need for change. “‘There has to be something more that I can do here. I thought as I looked around my desk and saw stacks and stacks of loans, and I was like ‘I need some more human interaction’,” Rasheedah explains.
She went and pursued just that when she decided to shift her career as a Human Resource Assistant. “Things took off from there,” says Rasheedah. She spent time in a few different industries such as financial services, information technology and higher education. Rasheedah’s career underwent another shift when she began a career in Career and Technology Education with The School District of Philadelphia. After seven years with the Philadelphia School District Rasheedah made her way back to HR and Talent Acquisition. From there she ultimately found her way to YouthBuild Philly, heading up the school’s Vocational and Career Training program.
It didn’t take much for Rasheedah to be sold on YouthBuild. “I know it was the opportunity for me to really be able to explore what it is that we do at YouthBuild via workforce development and training professionals for career paths – including some that are not always seen as viable career paths. I’ve worked with everyone from middle school students all the way to students on the graduate level, and sometimes people like to look at workforce development as an alternative. Vocation for many years has been looked at as where people go when they can’t succeed in college,” Rasheedah says. She wants to set out to change that. “It has been my mission since entering the industry to bring light that this is something that people can do and become educated in the field and go on to earn a better than decent salary to support their families,” explains Rasheedah.
When Rasheedah worked at the Philadelphia School District she recalls students earning awesome opportunities within the skilled labor industry. “I worked with students who were studying to be welders and graduated from high school. All eight students got full time positions making $50,000 right out of high school, and they were being paid to go onto college. For a young person in Philadelphia to walk out of high school with a guaranteed position and college education, I think that’s better than decent.” she says. Rasheedah’s belief in the vocation industry is a driving force behind everything she does. “I’m always passionate about what young people can do in workforce development and often think about what we can do better to bring about education, opportunities and exposure to vocation. My goal is to shine light where I can on vocational workforce development because I believe that it’s absolutely necessary and something that can help families throughout our neighborhoods regardless of where you live,” explains Rasheedah.
Since starting at YouthBuild Philly, Rasheedah has set some concrete goals for herself. “First and foremost, I want to really learn YouthBuild. YouthBuild is very unique in that we’re not your traditional school. I’m still unpacking what that looks like and making the adjustment to the on the job training that we do. Once I get my ‘sea legs’ so to speak I look forward to exploring some really good opportunities for our students,” Rasheedah says.
Rasheedah has been ‘on the go’ since her first day in the Summer during student Mental Toughness Training. “My first day, I came in and threw my bag down and said ‘okay, tell me where I’m going. It’s important to keep that kind of energy going because no day at YouthBuild is the same,” says Rasheedah. She describes teamwork as one of YouthBuild Philly’s most valuable attributes. “Sometimes when you think about an organization of any size, you typically stop with access at a particular level. I truly appreciate the leadership and accessibility, starting at the top with Scott (Emerick, YouthBuild Philly’s Executive Director). I feel the same with colleagues and staff in the building. I don’t feel like I’m on my own. At YouthBuild, it is believed that when one person is successful. We all are successful,” says Rasheedah. Part of the culture at YouthBuild Philly is to celebrate each other’s accomplishments with shout outs and Rasheedah has had no problems adapting to this norm. “Shout out to YouthBuild staff, especially Scott for his exemplary leadership. Along with Stephanie Waller (Training & Placement Coordinator), Ameen (Akbar, Director of Student Life), Zuri (Stone, Assistant Director of Student Life), Robin (Walker, Learning Exchange Director), Michael Imperato (Director of Career Development) and Adesanya (Karade, Chief Financial & Operating Officer) who have all been extremely supportive during my transition into YouthBuild. Most importantly, the students who keep me challenged and on my toes everyday,” Rasheedah says.
Rasheedah’s favorite part of YouthBuild has been the students. “I love the students. I really appreciate that they challenge me in a good way, because I know that vocation is a very unique space. It’s important to me that I listen to what they are saying about their experiences in the classroom and on the worksite, because that helps to inform how good I am in this space and whether or not we can go from good to great. I truly appreciate their honesty and candor around their experience and how I can help them.” she explains.
Outside of YouthBuild, it would be no surprise to find this born and raised Philly native enjoying all that Philly has to offer, especially during the Summer. “I love summertime in Philly. The food markets, outdoor festivals, NeoSoul and The Roots Picnic. I love all of the Philly ‘feel good’ music and activities,” says Rasheedah. When she’s not enjoying summertime in Philly, you can find at her favorite vacation spot in Martha’s Vineyard or her spending quality time with her family. A major highlight of her family time is during the holidays when she gathers her family at her house for a feast personally made by her. “For Christmas brunch I will be making a french toast bake casserole, shrimp and grits, seafood quiche, chicken and waffles, and silver dollar pancakes,” says Rasheedah. When asked if she’s a secret chef she modestly says, “Shhh, I love to cook, I just have to be in the mood.”
Rasheedah’s wealth of experience, dedication to education and contributions to YouthBuild culture make her a valuable asset to YouthBuild Philly. The YouthBuild team is grateful for Rasheedah’s ‘road less traveled’ that ultimately brought her to YB.