Reclaiming Our Education: Pictures and Signs from YouthBuild’s MTT March

August is always a busy month at YouthBuild Philly, and this year was no exception.  While the Class of 2015 finished their last diploma requirements and got ready for graduation, applicants for the Class of 2016 embarked on Mental Toughness Training, a 6-day workshop series that constitutes the final step in the YouthBuild admissions process.  Applicants are expected to show up on time every day and participate in the workshops, which provide an overview of YouthBuild’s climate, culture, and program and address important professional and life skills needed for success.

Although the transition back into the classroom can be jarring, many applicants are inspired by the high stakes of what YouthBuild has to offer and rise to the occasion.  For example, many applicants show up early to ensure that they’re on time, resulting in long lines outside of the school each morning.

On the final day, applicants who have successfully completed Mental Toughness “march” down the sidewalks of Broad Street to an acceptance ceremony in Center City.  Along the way, they carry signs that they’ve made to express their determination and their reasons for going back to school.

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We’ve curated some of our favorite signs from this year’s to decorate our hallways, but we wanted to share them with you, too.  Click through the gallery below to start getting to know our Class of 2016!

Welcoming the Class of 2014

August is always the busiest and most exciting month at YouthBuild Philly, in part because our students are about to graduate and matriculate into new chapters of their journey – e.g., college, trade school, employment.  At the exact same time, however, high school dropouts interested in YouthBuild start to “drop in” and initiate the process of reclaiming their education with us.

What this means is that while we were getting ready for the Class of 2013’s graduation ceremony last month, we were also welcoming hundreds of final-stage applicants to join us for Mental Toughness, a 2-week series of workshops enabling the most motivated applicants to try out YouthBuild’s program and find out whether it would be a good fit for them.  Applicants participating in Mental Toughness 2013 also attended the 2013 graduation ceremony on August 31st.

Less than a week later, those same applicants marched down Broad Street in a peaceful demonstration of their commitment to education and a brighter future for themselves and their community.  Applicants created signs that reflected their adoption of YouthBuild’s core values, and their identities as motivated young people and change makers willing to work hard for success.

We were so thrilled to have the support of the pedestrians and drivers who shared their support by waving and honking at our applicants and staff!  We hope that everyone was as proud of and inspired by our students as we are.

The march went from YouthBuild Philly’s building at Broad and Thompson to the Hampton Inn at 13th and Race.  Once inside the hotel’s ballroom, applicants learned that they had been accepted into YouthBuild Philadelphia.  Here’s a (shortened) video of their reaction.


Although we we might express it differently, we definitely feel similar elation and hope for our incoming class.  They are now starting their second week of academic and vocation classes, and off to a great start!  Please join us in congratulating them on the steps they’ve taken to reclaim their education and transform their lives.

Do you know a high school dropout?

If you or someone you know recently dropped out of high school, YouthBuild Philadelphia is currently accepting applications for the Class of 2011.  To apply, you must be:

  • At least 18 years old, but not older than 20 on the first day of enrollment, September 8, 2010
  • A resident of Philadelphia
  • Formally dropped out of public high school (transfer students, GED holders and post-graduates are not eligible for the program)

Last year, we received over 900 applications for 220 available slots.  Our four-step application process is designed to measure motivation and dedication. The first step is to complete an online application before the July 28, 2010 deadline. The second step is to join us for a Transformation Orientation at YouthBuild.  All attendees will then be invited for an in-person interview with a panel of staff to assess readiness and motivation.

Lastly, approximately 350 applicants will be invited to Mental Toughness Training in August.  The two-week orientation and selection process prepares students to step back into the classroom and onto our worksites.

Please contact Brenda Alfaro at 215-627-8671 ext.13 with any questions about the admissions process.

Mental Toughness Training

Over 300 young people, ages 18-21, participate in Mental Toughness Training (MTT), an intensive, two-week selection process that prepares YouthBuild applicants to step back into the classroom. The series of workshops, leadership exercises and team building activities are designed to introduce applicants to the YouthBuild model of learning.

MTT is the final stage in our application process, which narrowed the field of over 1000 high school dropouts who applied to YouthBuild Philadelphia this year.  Applicants are accepted into MTT by demonstrating their motivation to attend YouthBuild, and they must adhere to a series of rules and guidelines to show their dedication and complete the training.

Dean of Students Ameen Akbar addresses applicants at a morning assembly during Mental Toughness Training.
Dean of Students Ameen Akbar addresses applicants at a morning assembly during Mental Toughness Training.