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!

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.