Student Leadership Trip to Baltimore

The Student Life department organized a field trip to Baltimore last Friday so that students could visit the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum there. This was an eye-opening experience for many students, who later shared their reflections in writing on social media. One student reflected on black history in connection with her decision to apply to college, posting a photo of her Esperanza College application along with the caption:

Even though I’m scared, I look forward to this next chapter in my life. It’s crazy how a simple trip to a museum can impact your life in a great way. Seeing how resilient they where regardless of their situation really gets to the mind & heart…

Another student wrote:

Yesterday I was able to attend a trip to the Great Blacks in Wax museum. The emotions and vibes I felt were unreal. I saw the real truth and horror of what blacks had to endure throughout history. But I also witnessed something almost indescribable. I saw their hope, pride, and optimism. Even in the face of death and immense oppression, their inner passion to fight for what they wanted was remarkable. I learned that even if people says that you are less than what you are you should never let that stop you from trying to achieve what you really want even if it is impossible. Class of 2016, don’t give up. We are almost finished. Remember your resilience!


These reflections are a testament to the importance of travel and new experiences for young people’s personal growth and worldview.  Shout-out to the Student Life staff who organized the trip!

If you would like to support another travel opportunity to YouthBuild students, please consider making a donation to support our Spring Break Service Trip, which will take 20 YouthBuild students to Utuado, Puerto Rico for a volunteer project next month.  Making a gift online is a great way to support the trip – or you can attend the Young Friends Spring Break fundraiser at North Bowl on March 3!  Tickets are available online.



Thank You Spring Break Supporters!

To the many friends, family, and fans who made donations in support of our intrepid Spring Break Service Trip Volunteers: Thank you!  The 7-day trip to Utuado, Puerto Rico was an unforgettable opportunity for YouthBuild students to participate in service learning while exploring a new culture and landscape.  This trip wouldn’t have been possible without your support.

This year’s service learning opportunity included work clearing trails and roads on an organic coffee farm in central Puerto Rico.  This was not an easy task – some of the fallen leaves in the surrounding forest were as big as our staff members! – but students persevered and even composed YouthBuild-themed chants to sustain their morale as they explored the new terrain. This work will count toward the 675 hours of volunteer service that every YouthBuild student must complete to graduate.

The group additionally traveled to several Puerto Rico landmarks, including an indigenous ceremonial site, a mountainside formation called Cueva Ventana, and the capitol city of San Juan:

“The highlight of the trip was to be in Puerto Rico,” said student Ciera Russum, who added that she’d never traveled somewhere predominantly Spanish-speaking. She also enjoyed trying new types of food while on the trip, and having the opportunity to deepen her friendships with other YouthBuild students.

Ciera’s only regret was that she did not bring a camera with her.  Luckily for her – and those of us who stayed on the mainland for Spring Break – the YouthBuild staff who accompanied students on the trip took many terrific photos.  For more of their pictures, check out our Spring Break 2012 photo set on Flickr!

Sponsor a Student’s Service Trip to Rebuild the Gulf Coast!

YouthBuild Philadelphia is proud to offer the opportunity for 30 students to travel to the Gulf Coast for a week long service trip. The spring break trip (April 16-22) will give students — most of whom have never traveled outside of Philadelphia — the opportunity to experience a new area of the country and support ongoing recovery efforts for homeowners of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The spring break rebuilding trip is part of the school’s legacy — providing community service in an effort to transform young people’s lives while revitalizing neighborhoods. YouthBuild Philadelphia has joined Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts twice since Hurricane Katrina, and students constructed two house frames that were sent to Lafayette, La. and Gulfport, Miss. for new homes for displaced families.

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the funding and volunteer numbers for recovery efforts are decreasing, but there are many families that still need homes. This year, YouthBuild students and staff will travel to Camp Victor in Ocean Springs, Mississippi to support the rehabilitation efforts, including rebuilding homes, gutting houses, and cleaning vacant or damaged properties.

To help make this trip possible, we are asking supporters to sponsor a student by making a tax-deductible donation to Friends of YouthBuild Philadelphia:

  • $1500 to cover transportation to the Gulf Coast for all 30 students
  • $500 to sponsor one student, including travel, meals, lodging, and service materials
  • $250 to provide meals for the week for one student
  • $50 for transportation for one student to the Gulf Coast
  • $35 to provide one day and night at Camp Victor for one student

Make a donation to Friends of YouthBuild Philadelphia online via Network for Good or mail a check to YouthBuild Philadelphia (attn: Meredith Molloy) at 1231 N. Broad St, 3rd Fl, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

Spring Break in Guatemala

Twenty students and seven staff members completed YouthBuild Philadelphia’s first international service trip by traveling to Guatemala during the week of April 1-8, 2009.  We partnered with San Lucas Toliman Mission to volunteer services, including the construction of homes and the building of potable water systems. The students and staff members worked alongside villagers and were immersed in the Guatemalan culture.Spring Break in Guatamala

Over the last fifty years, initiatives begun by the Mission have changed the lives of the Mayan people that live in San Lucas. The small village of once cornstalk homes with thatched roofs–lacking both electricity and plumbing–is now a village of cement block and stone homes, built by local stone masons and carpenters trained in parish programs. Free healthcare and nutrition programs, including dental facilities and an eye clinic, are also available to the community.

A majority of our students have not traveled outside Philadelphia, let alone outside the United States. Students got to see first-hand how their skill sets are applicable on an international level.

From our Program Director Brian Leffler, Lead Chaperone for the trip:

The trip to Guatemala provided many students and staff the opportunity to experience things that they might not ordinarily experience while in Philadelphia, and provided all the chance to get to know each other on a deeper and more personal level.

During the first flight from JFK to San Salvador, most of the 27 of us were seated across four rows, and when the airplane took off from the runway, the roar from the students was deafening, and captured the terror of many of the students’ first airplane flight and the start of the adventure.

Our final destination was a beautiful lakeside village surrounded by three soaring volcanoes. The natural beauty of the area was captured with many pictures throughout the trip, from either lakeside or during the boat trip we took to neighboring lakeside villages.

Each evening, a chaperone led a reflection activity that gave all of us the chance to reflect on our experiences and share our impressions with each other.

One student in particular communicated a profound statement about the trip. While soaking in the Guatemala experience, he talked about how before YouthBuild, the only way that he thought he could have had the opportunity to leave the negative culture of his neighborhood was to sell drugs. He was so appreciative of YouthBuild for the experiences of the trip, and for the training that has given him another option to be successful in life.

See photos from the trip!