YouthBuild Philly highlighted in national service/education report

Last month, America’s Promise Alliance released a report on The Role of National Service in Closing the Graduation Gap.”  This report coincided with the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, which since 1994 has connected volunteers to community needs, including educational attainment and access to quality education.

Much of the report focuses on how outside volunteers have helped students succeed in US schools and increased the national graduation rate. However, the report also pointed out that community service and volunteering can help older students stay motivated and connected to their school through a renewed sense of self and purpose.  The report highlighted YouthBuild USA and YouthBuild Philly in particular, incorporating quotes from Simran Sidhu and Dorothy Stoneman on why service is a cornerstone of the YouthBuild model:

“Providing service in communities, making a difference, producing something of value has a profound influence on self-respect, identity and the career choices young people make — especially when they are in a group that has been considered worthless. For young men of color, it has  a huge impact to be visible on the street doing something positive and tangible for  their community — building affordable housing for their own neighborhoods.”

– Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO, YouthBuild USA

“This kind of tangible service changes our students’ relationship with the community so that they go from being the problem to being the problem-solvers.  Our students wear their hard hats and tool belts because they want to be seen in them.  they’re so proud. ”

– Simran Sidhu, Executive Director, YouthBuild Philly

 

The report also noted that youth who volunteer are more likely to find employment and less likely to disconnect.  Studies of YouthBuild programs, also summarized in the report, found that members who completed a year of AmeriCorps service were twice as likely to go to college as those who did not complete the year, and five times more likely to attend college than non-AmeriCorps members.  There’s a lot to gain by giving back.

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Read the summary and full report here.

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.

GreenBuild Groundbreaking on Greene Street

YouthBuild USA President and Founder Dorothy Stoneman thanks our partners

YouthBuild Philadelphia hosted a groundbreaking event to to launch the national partnership between YouthBuild USA, Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, and its North American subsidiary CertainTeed. As part of the partnership, YouthBuild Philadelphia will receive $100,000 in pass-through grants over the next three years to engage students in learning green building techniques and build energy-efficient affordable housing.

The event at YouthBuild’s new GreenBuild project on Greene St. in Germantown kicked off with the YouthBuild Philadelphia Student Pledge, led by students Sean Humphrey, Amir Johnson, Jasmine Myers, Kenneth Watkins, Kahnyqua Weems, and Jermaine Williams.

Executive Director Simran Sidhu acted as Master of Ceremony for a full roster of speakers, including:

Student Speakers, Lamar Lincoln and Amber Allen
  • Gilles Colas, president and CEO of Saint-Gobain
Student Donnell Simmons and YouthBuild Philadelphia Board member Check Esser

Over 200 YouthBuild Philadelphia students and staff joined friends — including partners from Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the  Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, Community College of Philadelphia, and CareerLink — to celebrate the groundbreaking of the rehabilitation project.

The long-vacant, dilapidated property will be transformed into an energy efficient two-family home for a first-time homebuyer. Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed will be providing energy-efficient products, building science, technical expertise, and employee volunteers  to support the project, which will work toward LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.

Watch a video of highlights from the event:

Online Media Coverage:
Philly.com, A greening on Greene Street
NewsWorks (WHYY), Blight goes green on Greene Street

Two Students Attend Conference of Young Leaders in Washington DC

We are proud to announce that two Youthbuild Philadelphia students were selected to attend YouthBuild USA’s Conference of Young Leaders in Washington DC.

Rashon Thomas, Dorothy Stoneman and Shakila Alexander
YouthBuild Philadelphia students Rashon Thomas and Shakila Alexander with YouthBuild President and Founder Dorothy Stoneman.

Shakila Alexander and Rashon Thomas joined 116 fellow YouthBuild students from programs across the country to discuss the future of the YouthBuild movement, visit state legislators, and run for positions on the National Young Leaders Council.

The National Young Leaders Council (YLC) is an elected body of YouthBuild participants and graduate leaders from across the country acting as a national voice for youth in the YouthBuild Movement.

YouthBuild Philly 2006 Alumnus Wayne Whack previously served as a member of YLC and now serves as a member of the Executive Team of YouthBuild’s National Alumni Council.

Rashon delivered an inspiring speech before the attendees, and closed with this promise:

By voting for me you will elect someone who can prove it is possible to change themselves and the world around them. As a voice for education I will show future YouthBuild students that their dreams are worth fighting for. I want to help others just like my cousin Jahi Davis, my teachers, and my mentors have helped me. It does not matter what neighborhood or family you come from- it matters where you are going and how you are getting there.

We could not be more proud of the two young stars who stood as outstanding representatives of YouthBuild Philadelphia!

See more photos from the event on our Flickr page or YouthBuild Alumni”s Facebook page.

YouthBuild Philadelphia Board Member and alumnus Jahi Davis and Rashon Thomas, current student and COYL Representative

Leading the National Health Care Initiative

When we launched our Health Care Training program for the 2005-06 school year, we were one of the first of over 200 YouthBuild programs across the country to address the demand for career opportunities outside the construction field.  Over the last three years, the program has become a huge success, allowing dozens of our students to earn Nurse Aide certification and provide hundreds of hours of nursing care.

We recently partnered with YouthBuild USA to publish a manual for YouthBuild programs wishing to launch or refine their health-care training and exploration tracks. The manual can be downloaded as a PDF at YouthBuild USA’s new health-care training resources page.