Post MLK Day of Service Event

Amid the Omicron variant surge this past January, we chose to transition to virtual programming for a few weeks for the safety of our students and staff. As a result, we were unable to participate in any in-person MLK Day of Service activities together. We did however provide resources and encouraged our students and staff to get involved in some way on their own. 

Nevertheless, with service at the core of everything we do here at YB, we were determined to get a new date on the books!

On Friday, March 4, in an effort to honor our commitment to MLK Day, we were excited to bring our school community together for a day of service. We gathered here at YB and created various resources for the organizations that included: 

  • Art Therapy Packs
  • Hygiene Care Packs
  • Parenting Supplies 

Students were split into multiple groups according to their Graduation Pathway to Success (GPS) and stationed throughout the building. Together, we were able to fill over 250 book bags with art therapy supplies, in addition to 500 hygiene care packages and 50 parenting supply kits. We also included a thoughtful hand written note in each care package from our staff with words of encouragement. Thank you to our students and staff for their contribution to making this event a complete success. We are truly grateful for our school community and appreciate their time and dedication to providing service and much-needed resources to vulnerable communities most in need. 

Over the course of the year, all students engage in community service as part-time AmeriCorps members. In the process of changing their own lives, students drive change in their own communities and combat negative stereotypes about out-of-school youth. YB Service Days also serve as an opportunity for staff to build stronger relationships with their mentees more intimately and for students to earn the required service hours needed for graduation. 

Once the event wrapped up at noon, students and staff gathered in our community celebration room (CCR) for delicious food, great conversation, and vibrant music. Shout out to everyone who was able to participate and we look forward to seeing you at our next service day. 

Thank you, YB Philly 

Celebrating Black History Month Today and Everyday

YouthBuild’s African American students make up approximately 94% of the enrolled population. This number includes 6% of those who identify as multi-racial ethnicities. The identity that has been built around our entire student group, eludes excellence within the school and communities which we are a part of. The relationships that are built amongst our students reminds us every day that Black History is not only in the past – it is all around us and it is for everyone.

Black history is American history. A history full of endless parts and elements that are shared and carried through our current lifestyles. Lessons from our historic-past are intertwined with the way that our staff and students show care and support for one another today and every day. 

Black History runs far and wide in our world. There is not just one story to tell. YouthBuild students are young leaders who decided to not only enrich their lives and minds but the lives of the people who live amongst them as well. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words but what is history worth? “Our Future!” The students fully understand that their future is fueled by their current actions. Whether the conversation is health, wellness or academics, taking a moment to recognize Black achievements brings celebration back to our lives.

Our students are exemplars of Black History. They have proven that there is no such thing as a big or small triumph. Their limitless contributing factors include, tackling things like leadership, pioneer successes, and game-changing events. Same sacrifice, love, bravery, and determination – just a different time, name, face and individual story. Let’s celebrate overcoming struggles and pain points together. We all continue to do so in our unique lives and situations which is what keeps us all connected.

As Black History Month comes to an end, YB Philly hopes to inspire you to please carry the same understanding and inspiration with you throughout the rest of the year.

To stay up to date with YouthBuild Philly, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @YouthBuildPhl. 

-Peace, YB Philly

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year: Big Teacher Love

YouthBuild’s teachers are amazing. As with the rest of the world, YouthBuild is facing increased attendance challenges in addition to unrelenting barriers preventing our students from focusing on their education. The heightened anxieties of pandemic life are coloring our culture. Within this difficult context, our teachers are shining.  

I know this because I visit their classrooms and see them warmly welcoming our students. I see them consistently offering creative and well prepared learning experiences as they develop curriculum within our innovative and evolving model. I see them maintaining positive energy. I see them celebrating their students and each other as they enjoy the beautiful moments of teaching and learning that happens daily.  

I also know our teachers are amazing because I’ve been asking students. I often talk to our  students casually about how classes are going, but last month I asked students more formally for feedback. Using a common set of questions, I checked in with nine students individually for 15 minute interviews.  I intentionally connected with students who have attended consistently, students with spotty attendance and with some who seem at home in classrooms and some who are out of their comfort zone. 

Students had rich, meaningful observations and insights to share. They offered constructive feedback and useful information about our program design. What stood out most was the respect and appreciation they felt for their teachers. They described their teachers’ strengths in unique ways that highlighted their personality and teaching style.  

Some examples include:    

  • I’ll ask her a question and she’s ready; she’s up on her game
  • “We had fun in her class without even realizing it! We were truly engaged in the topic being discussed and it made time go by faster.”
  • “He has great energy. You can feel the energy in the room.”
  • “He tries hard to make his lessons interesting! He teaches about topics that actually matter and what people will care about.”
  • “Encouraging and positive energy. She makes sure everyone understands the work first before moving onto the next assignment.” 
  • “He knows how to get us thinking and engaged on a personal level. He is great at motivating us. He is very honest and transparent with us.” 

When I think about the current state of our school and the world as a whole, I am easily overwhelmed. The challenges are real and no amount of focus on the bright side can lift the burden of the pandemic off our shoulders. But when I think about the magnificent, complex and gifted humanity of our teachers and the small but intimate interactions between them and our students that bloom each day in corners of our school, I feel grounded and hopeful.  

So, on this holiday eve, shout out to you, Christina, Erika, Ant, Pete, Roman and Jody.  

With gratitude, 

Sarah Burgess

Director of Curriculum and Instruction  

YouthBuild Philly Launches Stomping Grounds Social Justice Café

After more than a year of planning, YouthBuild Philly is excited to announce the official grand opening of Stomping Grounds Café (SGC), YouthBuild’s first community-facing and student-led social justice coffee shop. The Café officially opened its doors to the public on Monday, Nov. 1 at 8 a.m. after holding an initial ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, October 29.

The event was a complete success and was filled with fun, food and music! Special shout out to YB Philly’s very own Scott Emerick, YouthBuild Philly Executive Director, Melissa Jackson-Schmidt, YouthBuild Philly Director of Workforce and Kim Paulus, Stomping Grounds Café General Manager and YouthBuild Philly Customer Service Instructor, who led the ribbon-cutting ceremony and provided some very inspirational words of hope and appreciation.

Thank you to everyone who attended the ceremony – it was a pleasure to chat one-on-one with our new neighbors and reconnect with long-time friends of YB Philly. Guests who attended the ceremony received a free sample of SGC’s world-class banana chai latte and sweet potato pie spiced latte, followed by a student-led walk-through of the Café. The event wrapped up at 5 p.m. with a light networking session and a very impromptu photoshoot with YB staff and students.

For background, Stomping Grounds serves the community and is dedicated to ensuring that all YB Philly students, neighbors and customers, all have a place to feel welcomed and safe.  At SGC, everyone has a seat at the table!

The mission of SGC is built on the foundation of nearly 30 years of young adult training experience and more than five years of running an in-school cafe serving students, staff, and invited guests. Stomping Grounds is more than just a café – it will serve as a flexible space and classroom for YouthBuild students in its Business Administration Scholars (BAS) program.

SGC provides YouthBuild students with an authentic experiential learning opportunity via hands-on, day-to-day operation and management. SGC employment opportunities are exclusive to YBPCS alumni and current students to empower them to become self-sufficient leaders of their community and earn a living sustaining wage.

SGC will specialize in producing Italian espresso-based beverages made from beans ethically sourced, locally roasted, and handled with care by trained professionals.  Teas and other assorted beverages will be offered as well. Students will be responsible for creating and promoting specialty menu items and will work with customers to design custom-crafted beverages to suit any taste.

The Café’s hours of operation will run from 8 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday and is located in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia at 3859 Lancaster Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19104. If you’re ever in the area, please feel free to stop by for a carefully crafted coffee or tea.

YB Philly is committed to improving the lives of young people and Stomping Grounds is where the students can use their newfound skills to make change in their community. To learn more about YouthBuild Philly, please follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @YouthBuildPhl and @stompinggrounds_sjcafe on Instagram.        

-YB Philly