June Volunteer of the Month: Sirrah Williams

Sirrah Williams is the June 2014 YouthBuild Philly Volunteer of the Month!  Sirrah works at the Wharton School of Business and has been volunteering at YouthBuild since March 2014.  In addition to helping out in Ms. Willa’s Language Arts class, Sirrah also helped  coordinate this year’s partnership between YouthBuild Philly and Wharton’s annual Charity Fashion Show.  She is a fantastic friend of YouthBuild, and we are so grateful for her service and commitment to YouthBuild’s mission.  Below, Sirrah  reflects on why volunteering at YouthBuild is important to her:

sirrahI have learned the importance and merit of providing mentorship to our youth of the Philadelphia community. Too often the value of support and fostering meaningful relationships with our youth is overlooked in our culture, but I strongly believe that building healthy communities begins with playing an active role and reinforcing positive relationships with the next generation. Luckily, I felt I was able to help provide such support (even if only in a small way), during the time I spent in Miss Willa’s Language Arts classroom.

One of the most powerful interactions I had with a YB student was not only the help I was able to provide with ethnography projects during class time, but that I was able to build a strong enough working relationship with one particular student to the point where she felt comfortable reaching out to me via email (so I could continue to provide assistance and tutoring with her project outside of my time spent in her classroom). It meant a great deal to me to see that this student took pride in putting in the extra effort to work on her project. This is not only a situation where I felt I had been helpful and made a positive impact, but I felt I had truly had been able to make a difference.

Interested in volunteering at YouthBuild? Click here to learn more.



May Volunteer of the Month: Alexandra Brown

Alexandra Brown Is the May 2014 YouthBuild Philly Volunteer of the Month!  Alexandra is studying Anthropology and Human Biology at Temple University, and has been volunteering at YouthBuild Philly since January.  All of us at YouthBuild thank her for the hours of tutoring and valuable service she’s provided at our school this year!  Below, Alexandra reflects on her time at YouthBuild so far:

ImageVolunteering at YouthBuild has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I attended after-school tutoring sessions every Tuesday and Thursday expecting to tutor students, which I did, but I always leave with new learned information. For example, I’ve learned that YouthBuild students are some of the most driven and eager students that I’ve ever witnessed. I hope that every student that I’ve worked with knows that they have all impacted me in some way.

One particular interaction was especially meaningful to me: I had been assigned to work with a specific student. Even though I was overly excited to help her with her homework, she didn’t seem to reciprocate the same feelings towards me. It took a little bit of warming up but once we broke the ice, I began to see her become more comfortable with my help and presence. Now, every time we see each other she greets me with a warm hello! It meant a lot to me that she allowed me to gain her trust. 

The time that I felt I was making the biggest difference was when I led the Interview Etiquette Workshop during Saturday School. The fact that the participating students were so engaged in the presentation really made me feel like I contributed something worthwhile to the YouthBuild community.  I am so thankful to everyone at YouthBuild for allowing me into their school and into their community. I really appreciate every single person that I’ve had the pleasure of working with! 

Interested in volunteering at YouthBuild Philly?  Learn more here. 

April Volunteer of the Month & Volunteer Appreciation Week 2014

Brionna Pendleton is April’s Volunteer of the Month!  Brionna is an undergraduate studying biology and psychology at Temple University, and has been volunteering at YouthBuild Philly since November.  All of us at YouthBuild thank her for the 30 hours of tutoring and valuable service she’s provided at our school this year!  Below, Brionna reflects on her time at YouthBuild so far:

ImageI am genuinely happy that YouthBuild exists, not only for the students but for all of the teachers, tutors, and support staff. Tutoring at YouthBuild has been an amazing experience for me. YouthBuild is a place where so many of these students can escape other struggles and truly focus on bettering themselves. It is inspirational to hear some of their stories and how they have turned away from things that were once dragging them down. These students are trying to better themselves after so much that they have encountered in their short lives and it makes me want to become a better person in my own life.

I remember coming up the elevator and being greeted by Mr. Ricky and other teachers yelling, “IT’S SHOUT OUT DAY!” I was completely confused and just stood there dumbfounded. Shout outs were being handed out all over the place and I felt that it was a great way for the students to encourage each other and for them to be noticed for the great that they do. Later, I was helping at student with a science project. After we had been working for a while, he said “Thanks! You really helped me a lot. You definitely deserve a shout out,” and there he wrote me one and on it reads “for helping me :)”. I still have it hanging next to my desk.

I was working with an alumni student one day and she told me that she doesn’t usually like to be tutored because it is difficult for her to connect with others, but she told me that it was different with me. We talked and not just about strictly math and science, but about what’s hard for her, why she has difficulty, and what she thinks will help her do better. I think it was so meaningful to me because when I first sat down, she explained to me that usually she doesn’t like getting help, and by the time I was leaving, she wanted to schedule to be tutored by me again. I felt that I had not only helped her understand a concept in math, but also realize that it is okay to ask for help.”

Earlier this month, YouthBuild Philly celebrated National Volunteer Appreciation Week with a special breakfast for our volunteers, and an afterschool pizza party for tutors and students.  We are grateful every week of the year for the generous gifts of time and caring that our volunteers bring to YouthBuild, but we enjoyed having a special occasion to celebrate during Volunteer Appreciation Week!

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Interested in volunteering at YouthBuild Philly?  Learn more here. 

March Volunteer of the Month: Kia Lacey

Starting with this post, we are launching a new series of posts featuring YouthBuild Philly’s volunteers of the month. This month, we recognize Kia Lacey!  Kia is working towards her Master’s in Psychology at Kaplan University and has donated 45 hours of her time to tutoring YouthBuild students since September 2013.  We asked her to reflect on her experience at YouthBuild so far:


ImageVolunteering at YouthBuild for the past couple of months has been a really great experience for me. The students have taught me a lot about persevering through struggles and difficulties and becoming a better person. Some of the students that I have encountered have told me how YouthBuild has changed them for the better and it makes me happy that there is a place where the students can get a second chance to become better people.

One interaction with a student that was particularly powerful for me was with a student who was having a rough time with school because of personal issues. At such a young age, she has a child to raise, had negative thoughts of herself, and had somewhat of a troubled home life. Even with all she was going through, she still managed to come to school and produce quality work. This is a person who is determined to become better and live better. Her determination is definitely something I admire.

I feel like I make a difference at YouthBuild when students openly ask for help and actually take in the advice I give. It can be difficult to ask for help especially from someone you really don’t know. It makes me feel good when they apply the information I gave them to their work and then say “Thank you Ms. Kia, that helped out a lot!”

Another thing I love about YouthBuild is that there are young people helping young people. Many of the staff members are young and who better to help and guide you than someone who understands you and the time that you live in. A better rapport is built when the students feel like the staff can relate to them in some way.


Thank you Kia!