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.

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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!

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New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve Job Prospects for Young Adults

YouthBuild Philly is proud to be a core partner in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work initiative. Philadelphia has been named one of five cities to receive a four-year grant to improve employment opportunities for young adults.

This work is strongly aligned with our vision of improving opportunities for young people across the city. We look forward to all the collaboration ahead with AECF, JOIN Collaborative, 1199C Training Fund and Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc. – and the many stakeholders this project will engage – to address youth unemployment in Philadelphia and beyond.

Read on for the full release:

New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve   Job Prospects for Young Adults

Nearly $1 Million to be Awarded Over Four Years to Strengthen the Next Generation of Workers and Meet Employer Demand

PHILADELPHIA — The Annie E. Casey Foundation announced today that it will award $6 million in grants over the next four years to increase job opportunities for America’s young adults in five cities, enabling them to begin building careers and develop the skills employers need. Nearly $1 million will be invested in Philadelphia through a new, nimble, initiative called Generation Work.

Generation Work will bring the best efforts of employers, funders, policymakers and practitioners together to match training and education with the skills needed in the workplace. This project leverages the collective expertise of four nationally-recognized core partners in Philadelphia — the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), Philadelphia Youth Network, YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, and District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund – and connects Philadelphia to a national learning community for four years of investment by the Casey Foundation in building the infrastructure needed to get more young adults working.

“Our future workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets, and we cannot compete globally unless it is strong,” said Allison Gerber, a senior associate who oversees the Casey Foundation’s investments in improving job opportunities for low-income individuals and families. “The next generation is eager to work, but we must create more avenues for young adults to develop the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in the job market.”

While the Great Recession hit many hard, teens and young adults have experienced the most drastic drop in employment, data shows. In Philadelphia the need for action and change is urgent; nearly one in five young Philadelphians is disconnected – out of work and out of school. Across the country, millions of young people — particularly young people of color and from low-income families — face obstacles to employment or education, and the percentage of young people ages 18–29 in the job market has steadily declined in recent years. At the same time, employers often struggle to find workers with the right set of skills for available positions.

Generation Work aims to combine building relationships with businesses, factoring in their needs in the local economy, with youth development strategies to prepare young people for work, such as mentoring and on-the-job learning opportunities.

“Through Generation Work, we aim to transform Philadelphia’s skill development landscape so that all young adults (18-29) have access to relevant, engaging careers and employers have access to strong, productive talent pipelines,” said Jennie Sparandara, Director of JOIN.

“We can only do this through partnerships with employers, funders, practitioners and policymakers that share the same commitment to strengthening our workforce,” added Jim Cawley, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), the managing partner of the JOIN funders collaborative.”

Philadelphia was selected for funding because it has demonstrated a promising approach to young adult employment, with a particular focus on those facing some of the greatest obstacles to getting a job; the ability to effectively implement services for young job seekers and employers; and the potential to help foster broader uptake of their approaches in their respective geographic areas, among other strengths.

“Partnership is the key to success when it comes to aligning all of our best strategies, citywide, to ensure young Philadelphians are able to reach the next level in their professional and personal goals,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network. “We are able to reach higher, and achieve greater results when we grow together as a team. I look forward to working with 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, YouthBuild and other leaders to combine our collective efforts and systemic tools to expand opportunity so that access to employment and education are no longer hurdles to jump, but doors to open.”

JOIN, housed and managed by UWGPSNJ, will serve as the grant manager. The Foundation’s award will be used in the first year to engage key stakeholders and plan the implementation and evaluation of strategies to increase young adults’ access to job opportunities. Funding in subsequent years will support  documenting the impact of their efforts and promoting the use of these strategies on a broad scale in the public, private and nonprofit sector.

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The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) is a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers that develops and supports innovative efforts to eliminate the mismatch between the level of skill required for high growth jobs and the much lower skill level of many working age Philadelphians. JOIN is housed and managed by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. For more information, visit www.joincollaborative.org.

The Philadelphia Youth Network is an intermediary organization dedicated to equipping young people with the skills necessary to accomplish academic achievement, economic opportunity and personal success. To succeed in this mission, we bring together cross-sector partners from around the city to expand access to services for underserved youth and young adults ages 12-24. For more information, visit www.pyninc.org

District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund – District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, a labor management partnership comprised of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees AFSCME and 50 healthcare employers, serves as a healthcare workforce intermediary and an educational institution. Since its creation in 1974, the Training Fund has built the capacity of the Delaware Valley’s healthcare industry to create a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training opportunities and the development of an education pipeline of skilled talent that matches the workforce needs of Delaware Valley healthcare employers. For more information visit www.1199ctraining.org/

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School – The mission of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is to provide out-of-school youth in Philadelphia with the broadest range of tools, supports and opportunities available to become self-sufficient, responsible and productive citizens in their community. The first year of our program offers high school dropouts a second chance to earn their diplomas while developing vital job skills through rigorous academics, vocational training and community service; the second year supports them towards success in employment or postsecondary education. Learn more at http://www.youthbuildphilly.org/

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

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!

Celebrating a Year with Starbucks

In the summer of 2013, YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School was awarded a Youth Leadership Grant from the Starbucks Foundation to support our Leadership Development programming.  Over the past year, YouthBuild Philly and Starbucks have expanded on this partnership on the ground in Philadelphia, leading to new opportunities for students and Starbucks partners alike.  Read on to learn more about this exciting and emerging partnership!

Starbucks Visits YouthBuild Philly:

Shortly after YouthBuild received the Leadership  grant, Michael Scott, district manager, and Shannon Phillips, regional director, visited the school to meet with key staff and discuss ways that the two organizations could work together throughout the school year.  Subsequent meetings with Starbucks Area 71 Community Liaison Caitlin Durkin allowed  both organizations to explore opportunities for community service and leadership development together.  Starbucks generously donated YouthBuild Philly a $100 gift card, in addition to providing coffee and snacks for Student Ambassador meetings and volunteer events.

In December 2013, Caitlin attended a site visit at YouthBuild Philadelphia and had the opportunity to see our program in action and meet with a group of students to hear about the program from their perspective.  Caitlin was so inspired by her visit that she encouraged Michael and Shannon to attend the next site visit which was scheduled in January.

Pathways to Meaningful Employment:

Brittany reps YouthBuild in her Starbucks barista cap.  She reports that Starbucks is a supportive environment, just like YouthBuild.
Brittany reps YouthBuild in her Starbucks barista cap. She reports that Starbucks is a supportive environment, just like YouthBuild.

At this site visit, the Starbucks representatives were so moved by the personal stories of two of our students, Brittany and Carmen, who were doing extremely well in our program but both struggling with homelessness, that both of these students were offered job interviews at Starbucks.  Brittany and Carmen were both subsequently hired at two different Starbucks locations in the Philadelphia area and both continue to be employed there. In fact, Brittany was recently offered a promotion to shift manager, a job that pays $13 an hour.  Brittany and Carmen are extremely proud to be employees at Starbucks and wear their Starbucks hats and other logoed gear to school nearly every day.  They report that the Starbucks work environment is very supportive and reminiscent of YouthBuild.  Both students even have mentors!

 

Starbucks Promotes YouthBuild Day: yb_starbucks_BG

On April 3, the national network of YouthBuild programs celebrated the first ever YouthBuild Day, during which local programs organized events to raise public and political support for the YouthBuild youth development model. In Philadelphia, YouthBuild Day activities centered on a flyer and social media campaign to encourage former high school dropouts to apply to YouthBuild for the coming school year.  Caitlin Durkin generously offered to coordinate Starbuck’s support for YouthBuild Philly’s campaign, and secured the participation of several stores in Center City Philadelphia. These stores displayed posters and flyers specifically created for YouthBuild Day, and provided YouthBuild Philly shirts to employees to wear during their shifts.  Caitlin reported that many customers recognized the shirts and were pleased to learn that Starbucks had ties to YouthBuild Philly.

 

Serving the Community Together:

Later in April, YouthBuild Philly partnered with Starbucks for two of the company’s Month of Service events.  Service in the community is a core component of YouthBuild Philly’s program, and we were pleased to partner with Starbucks in improving Philadelphia’s neighborhoods through volunteer projects:

  • On April 12, one staff member and twelve students joined Starbucks employees and volunteers from the Urban Tree Connection for an Earth Day community clean-up in West Philadelphia.
  • On April 24, Michael Scott coordinated a volunteer day for partners at a YouthBuild Philly construction worksite. Students are renovating this formerly dilapidated home in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city, and their recent demolition work left a great deal of debris in the back of the property.  Starbucks partners volunteered alongside students (including Brittany, who represented both groups) to thoroughly and safely transfer this debris to a dumpster for removal.This part of the renovation process benefits greatly from added manpower, and would have taken at least twice as long without the extra hands and enthusiasm provided by Starbucks volunteers.  YouthBuild students greatly enjoyed working alongside Starbucks employees (some even inquired about careers with Starbucks), and it was heartening to witness the care and passion that Starbucks partners had for giving back to their local community.
Starbucks employees and YouthBuild students pose in the dumpster they're about to fill with demolition debris.
Starbucks employees and YouthBuild students pose in the dumpster they’re about to fill with demolition debris.

Looking ahead, we hope to continue partnering with Starbucks as a prospective employer and service partner, and to explore other ways that our organizations can work together to develop youth leaders and build a brighter future for the Philadelphia region.

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.

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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.

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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!

Congratulations Class of 2013!

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Our school reached a new milestone on August 23, when 127 students in the Class of 2013 received their diplomas at our 21st commencement ceremony.  As of Friday, more than 2,000 motivated young people have graduated from YouthBuild Philadelphia since the program’s founding in 1992.  The YouthBuild Philly movement has come a long way since our first class of sixteen graduates!

Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA
Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA

Many friends and supporters of the program joined us to celebrate the joyous occasion.  Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO of YouthBuild USA as well as YouthBuild founding staff member John Bell attended and handed out awards during the ceremony.  Other guests included our board members, representatives from local elected leaders’ offices, and staff from our funding and program partners.

This year’s commencement speaker was Martin Luther King III, who was organizing a march in Washington, D.C. the very next day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and his father’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.  YouthBuild USA was one of the many organizations involved in the Washington event over the weekend.

Mr. King’s speech tied the graduates’ accomplishments to the work yet to be done in the name of civil rights and improving communities.  “Civil rights is alive,” he said.  “And my dad would be telling us that we have to find a way to create jobs and opportunities.  The mantra in 1963 was Jobs and Freedom.  In 2013 it’s Jobs, Freedom and Justice.”

Martin Luther King III
Martin Luther King III

“Where you are in your lives is the result of the energy and the fact that you each of chosen to take a step to take charge for your future,” Mr. King said.  “While this is an important graduation for each of you – and it’s a huge step – it’s not the ending.  It really is the beginning of what you should do within your lives.”

Class of 2013 valedictorian Derrick Davenport also addressed his fellow graduates, as well as the applicants going through Mental Toughness Training to join the Class of 2014 who were also in the audience.  In a speech titled “Don’t Settle for Less, Just Do Your Best,” Derrick reflected on his transformation at YouthBuild, saying “With the help and guidance from teachers, staff, mentors and family members, I am no longer that kid on the stoop.  I’m the father paving the way for my son’s future.”

“Class of 2013, we’ve shown up and produced high quality work throughout the school year.  On the construction site we have learned the skills to build walls, insert drywall, prime and paint.  On academics, we’ve written about our own inspirational leaders, conducted research projects, written narrative essays, and shown motivation. But the journey can’t stop here.  A diploma isn’t enough.  Don’t be scared to force yourself to do better.  I challenge you to sacrifice the person you were for who you are willing to become.  You have proven that you are able to persevere through obstacles.  There are always going to be challenges throughout life, but you can’t let them stop you.   Always be excellent.  Excellence is a lifestyle; excellence is who you became and who you should continue to be.”

To the Mental Toughness applicants, Derrick said: “When there are moments of doubt telling you can’t do it, or you’re listening to people who say you can’t, the real question is: are you willing to work hard enough?”

Other speakers included Excellence Award winner Kyra Butler and Class of 2007 alumna Analicia Lindsay-Whitehead.

Class Valedictorian Derrick Davenport receives his diploma
Class Valedictorian Derrick Davenport receives his diploma from YouthBuild Philly Board Member Erin Horvat

Every year, YouthBuild presents a Legacy Award and a Meaningful Impact Award to partners and supporters of the program who have helped YouthBuild Philadelphia strengthen our program and pursuit of our mission, and paved the way for increased opportunities for our students.  This year we were proud to give the Legacy Award to Scott Emerick from YouthBuild USA and the Meaningful Impact Award to Dennis McDonough from Finishing Trades Institute.

To reiterate Mr. King’s insight, graduation marks the end of a year at YouthBuild – and the beginning of the rest of our graduate’s lives. All of our students have postsecondary plans ranging from full-time employment to the military, and 82 of Friday’s graduates intend to continue their education through college or trade school.  Many of our graduates will be the first in their families to go to college.

The costs of college are a significant consideration for YouthBuild students, who often must pay for their own tuition and supplies in addition to supporting themselves and their families.  For this reason, YouthBuild Philly runs a summer campaign to raise money for the Scholarship Fund.  Thanks to our generous individual donors and members of the YouthBuild Board of Trustees as well as the Young Friends of YouthBuild (who organized a bowling fundraiser at North Bowl), we received enough contributions to give out twenty scholarships this year.  Students can use these awards for tuition or other costs not covered by financial aid or scholarships, such as supplies.

To see more photos from graduation, check out our album on Facebook.  Use the comments section below to leave a note of congratulations to our graduates.

Building Bridges at Peirce College

Last Wednesday was a busy day!  We celebrated the completion of two summer bridge programs – first at CCP, and then later in the afternoon at Peirce College in Center City.

Six students successfully completed a college skills preparation course (“PRC 100”) at Peirce and received certificates of completion.  During the ceremony, staff encouraged students enrolling at Peirce in the fall to advocate for themselves and utilize the school’s student resources to ensure success.  “Everyone can go to college, but not everyone can stay in college,” one of them pointed out.  “You have to be persistent.”

Another professor reflected on education as an ongoing, never-ending process.  In our fast-changing world, continuing one’s education throughout adulthood is a must, she said.  “You have to keep moving and keep going.”

This was our first summer of bridge programming in partnership with Peirce.  Kudos to the Peirce and YouthBuild staff – and, of course, the students – who have done so much to build this bridge to new opportunities!

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!