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.

Region’s lead professionals volunteer on worksite, offer leadership advice

In February and March, YouthBuild Philly students renovating the Wingohocking St. construction worksite in Nicetown received some assistance – and valuable advice – from a unique group of volunteers who called themselves “Junto 7.” _MG_6471web The members of Junto 7 are participants in LEADERSHIP Philadelphia’s 2014 Core Program.  This program prepares leaders in the Philadelphia region’s private sector to serve the community as non-profit board members.  During the training and leadership development process, Core Program participants are grouped into cohorts (or Juntos) that partner on projects with area non-profits. The Junto 7/YouthBuild Philadelphia project consisted of five weekly sessions during which the LEADERSHIP volunteers would visit the Wingohocking worksite, put on hard hats and dust masks, and work alongside students in the process of deconstructing the abandoned properties and preparing them for renovation.  This was hard, dusty work in freezing weather – but it gave volunteers the opportunity to learn from and be led by YouthBuild students who have been at the worksite all year. _MG_6494web Over the course of the five weeks, the volunteers also shared their own expertise with students by providing career advice during breaks on the worksite. For example, Betty LeHew, Assistant Vice President for  Human Resources at the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, told students to  take goal-setting seriously: “Outcomes are about having a long-term goal and having short-term goals. If you have a long-term goal and no short-term goals to get there, you’ll have a stronger chance of failure than success.” And John Kalina’s advice to students was “Make [professional] relationships strong enough, to the point where someone knows your work ethic.” John is the Vice President of IS Business Management at Independence Blue Cross. _MG_6510web For a total of 5 sessions, Junto 7 and YouthBuild Philly’s GreenBuild and Advanced Construction vocations partnered in building physical structures and building strong, prepared young adults for their careers. On March 12th the project culminated with a tour of PJM Interconnections, a firm (where one of the Junto 7 volunteers works) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity within various U.S. regions. The partnership presented a unique opportunity for YouthBuild students to teach the LEADERSHIP Philadelphia volunteers the skills necessary to accomplish their tasks on their worksite and for the YouthBuild Philly students to learn “tricks of the trade” to accomplish their responsibilities in their career aspirations. _MG_6474web “We went all in and got so much out of it,” said Laurie Zierer, Executive Director of the PA Humanities Council. _MG_6508web Students in the construction squads agreed.  Student John Laderer reported that the experience motivated him to continue pursuing his career goal of being an Aviation Mechanic, and gave him leadership skills to help his younger brother make smart choices.

Thank you, Junto 7, for your hard work and caring mentorship!  Your leadership has made a real difference on Wingohocking St. and in our students’ lives.

#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 to Complete Energy-Star Certified Home

YouthBuild Philadelphia’s first signature green rehabilitation project is almost ready for a new first-time homebuyer! The project on Uber Street in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia is in partnership with Nicetown Community Development Corporation.

The rebuilding commenced in 2009 during a special demolition event with community volunteers and YouthBuild’s Class of 2010 led the energy-efficient and “green” rehabilitation project. Current YouthBuild students in the Green Building and Advanced Construction squads finished the home to Energy-Star Certification.

Nicetown CDC and YouthBuild will celebrate the completion of the home with a ribbon cutting ceremony in April. Please keep an eye out for an invitation in coming weeks!

GreenBuild Groundbreaking on Greene Street

YouthBuild USA President and Founder Dorothy Stoneman thanks our partners

YouthBuild Philadelphia hosted a groundbreaking event to to launch the national partnership between YouthBuild USA, Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, and its North American subsidiary CertainTeed. As part of the partnership, YouthBuild Philadelphia will receive $100,000 in pass-through grants over the next three years to engage students in learning green building techniques and build energy-efficient affordable housing.

The event at YouthBuild’s new GreenBuild project on Greene St. in Germantown kicked off with the YouthBuild Philadelphia Student Pledge, led by students Sean Humphrey, Amir Johnson, Jasmine Myers, Kenneth Watkins, Kahnyqua Weems, and Jermaine Williams.

Executive Director Simran Sidhu acted as Master of Ceremony for a full roster of speakers, including:

Student Speakers, Lamar Lincoln and Amber Allen
  • Gilles Colas, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain
Student Donnell Simmons and YouthBuild Philadelphia Board member Check Esser

Over 200 YouthBuild Philadelphia students and staff joined friends — including partners from Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the  Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, Community College of Philadelphia, and CareerLink — to celebrate the groundbreaking of the rehabilitation project.

The long-vacant, dilapidated property will be transformed into an energy efficient two-family home for a first-time homebuyer. Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed will be providing energy-efficient products, building science, technical expertise, and employee volunteers  to support the project, which will work toward LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.

Watch a video of highlights from the event:

Online Media Coverage:, A greening on Greene Street
NewsWorks (WHYY), Blight goes green on Greene Street

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)

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