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!


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!

MLK Day 2013: YouthBuild Philly Gives Longstreth Elementary an Extreme School Makeover!

Note: Stay tuned for student accounts and reflections on this year’s day of service!

For many in the U.S., Martin Luther King Day is thought of as a day off from school or work. At YouthBuild Philly, however, it’s one of our biggest days on. Service in the community is a core element of YouthBuild Philly’s program, and we were excited to partner with the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service again this year by hosting several projects at W.C. Longstreth Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia.

Painting in the cafeteriaMore than 200 YouthBuild students, staff and volunteers came together on Monday, Jan 21 to repaint the school’s cafeteria, stairwells, hallways and library. Volunteers painted over the cafeteria’s dull white walls, dreary dark green doors and old, fading Sesame Street characters.  These were replaced with a vibrant sky-blue background, inspirational quotes and illustrations, and positive affirmations about the school community.

Health screeningsMeanwhile, inside the school classrooms, other teams carried out service projects to serve greater Philadelphia. One team made literacy kits for young learners, while in another classroom volunteers decorated reused t-shirts with messages about sexual abuse for the Clothesline Project. Using clothes and toiletries donated by YouthBuild supporters, another team assembled care packages for shelter residents at Project H.O.M.E. and Bethesda Project.  Several volunteers also made no-sew fleece blankets to donate.  We invited Longstreth students and neighborhood residents to attend the event, which included free health screenings for the public administered by YouthBuild students in the Healthcare training track.

Cleaning the Point Breeze playgroundSome YouthBuild students and staff braved the below-freezing temperatures to participate in a special project at 20th and Tasker in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philly.  As part of an ongoing partnership with  ACE Mentoring and Urban Roots, students collected over thirty bags of trash and helped to repaint a hopscotch court at Ralph Brooks Park, a neighborhood playground and basketball court.  This service was a part of an ongoing three-month long collaboration in which YouthBuild students learn from political representatives, community organizers, developers, and city planners about the park revitalization process.

Greg "Just Greg" CorbinFollowing the morning of service, students and neighborhood residents gathered in the Longstreth gym for a performance showcase featuring spoken word performances by YouthBuild students and local poets such as Lyrispect and Greg “Just Greg” Corbin, as well performances by local artists Fese, DollarBoyz and Yazz The Greatest.

We’re so grateful to everyone who partnered with us on this day of service, including our Young Friends, volunteers from DMi Partners, and bottled water company CerebellumH2O. For more pictures from the day, click the gallery below – and follow us on Facebook  for even more photos, as well as future updates and pictures from our program and service projects!

Students Help Rehabilitate Historical Building for MLK Day of Service

More than 200 students and staff members joined over 80,000 volunteers throughout the greater Philadelphia area to serve the community in honor of the 17th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.

YouthBuild Philly partnered with Opport-UNITY, a local organization offering construction training to ex-offenders and people in addiction recovery, to rehabilitate their new training facility. The facility is located at the historical Engine Company No.11 building on South Street. Prior to the desegregation of the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1952, Engine 11 was Philadelphia’s de facto African American firehouse.

“Today is the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between YouthBuild Philadelphia and Opport-UNITY Inc. Training Center,” said William Webb, Executive Director of Opport-UNITY Inc. Training Center. “Our vision is to engage people made up of a disenfranchised community who were once deemed useless by some in society. We train them in the field of construction, and they become will serve as a ray of hope to the community. We are grateful to have these youth involved in our work.”

YouthBuild Philadelphia students – all former high school dropouts – are working toward their diplomas and engaging in hands-on vocational training. Over half of the students engage in a construction training program by rehabilitating homes for low-income families. Today, YouthBuild students worked with staff and students from Opport-UNITY in an ongoing rehabilitation process by cleaning and painting the Willie G. Williams Multipurpose Center, an approximately 10,000 sq. ft. building. YouthBuild plans to continue making improvements to the building over the next year.

“At YouthBuild Philadelphia, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance at success,” said Don Pinkey, Director of Building Trades at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. “Like YouthBuild, Opport-UNITY offers people a second chance through hands-on job training. We could not have a better partner in service on this important day for our community. This project is also an opportunity for our students to use their construction skills to work on a building with great historical significance to Philadelphia’s African American community.”

YouthBuild Philly is dedicated to volunteer service and reconnects youth to their community through civic engagement. In the past 19 years, YouthBuild students have rehabilitated over 75 homes for low-income families, refurbished more than 2,500 computers, and provided thousands of volunteer hours to long-term care facilities and community organizations. YouthBuild Philadelphia was honored for its many years of involvement in the MLK Day of Service by the Eleventh Annual Harris Wofford Award for Active Citizenship in 2009.

See more photos of the project on Flickr here, and coverage of the event in the South Philly Review here.

YouthBuild student on MLK Day of Service

YouthBuild students on MLK Day of Service

YouthBuild students and staff painting a mural for Opport-UNITY

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

YouthBuild Receives Harris Wofford Award for Active Citizenship

We are proud to announce that YouthBuild Philadelphia was awarded the Eleventh Annual Harris Wofford Award for Active Citizenship at the Martin Luther King Day of Service press conference on the morning of Jan. 7, 2009.

Mayor Michael Nutter presented the Award to Executive Director Simran Sidhu, along with 2009 class president D’Shaunta Hayward and Program Director Brian Leffler.

The award was given “for years of participation in the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, and for educating young people to become successful and active citizens.”

The award was presented on stage in front of press representatives, community leaders, and hundreds of other attendees. We are proud to be recognized for our commitment to, and participation in community service over the years.