Darell, UPLIFT Academy Graduate

Darell W.Darell W., UPLIFT Academy Class of 2016 Graduate

After getting kicked out of West Side High School in the 12th grade, Darell developed into what he calls a "hangsta." "I was little bit in the streets, but on my way out," he says. "I got myself a job, started working security, trying to get my life together." 

But without a degree, Darell couldn't visualize a way to move forward. "I felt like I couldn't go any further unless I stopped and got my diploma." After visiting various agencies, Newark Public Schools referred him to UPLIFT Academy, 1 of 2 transfer schools in the district and a key YBN partner.

With the credits he’d earned while at West Side, it took Darell only a year to get his high school diploma. In that short time, UPLIFT Academy left an impression. “I liked how [the teachers] interacted with the students. They didn’t just teach us. They didn’t just look at us like [we were] students. They looked at us like young people trying to make a way for themselves.”  He continues, “We didn’t see them just as teachers – we saw them as mentors.” Darell considers UPLIFT’s Principal, Chief Innovation Officer, and Director of Operations among the staff who particularly helped him transform from a ‘hangsta’ to a high school graduate. 

While he had the option to access vocational training during his enrollment, work prevented him from dedicating the time required. Yet, soon after graduating from UPLIFT, Darell found himself jobless. Two days later, UPLIFT’s Principal, Mark Comesañas, presented YBN’s construction training program as an opportunity. At first hesitant, Darell realized he enjoyed it. “I like working with my hands. I didn’t even actually know that,” he explains. Darell now has a core craft credential from the reputable National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Out of a cohort of 12 students, he was also the only one to achieve his GPRO certification. Developed by Urban Green Council, USGBC New York, GPRO is a comprehensive national training and certificate program that teaches the people who build, renovate and maintain buildings the principles of sustainability combined with trade-specific green construction knowledge. Darell recently became a YBN construction intern, which will allow him to continue to develop his skills on the agency’s construction sites full-time.

Darell plans to enroll in college where he will major in business management. Eventually, he’ll launch his own company. He looks forward to emulating his father, who owns six businesses. “I’ve been watching him my whole life…watching him do business,” says Darell. “I want to be jack-of-all trades when it comes to it.”

YBN Graduate Takes Action for Newark Schools


In response to the current water crisis affecting nearly half of Newark’s schools, 2008 YBN graduate and Home Depot associate Hassan gathered fellow Newarkers and co-workers to deliver bottled water to several schools. Read more about Hassan's efforts here.

MLK Day of Service – A Day 'On'

Last Monday, students, graduates, and staff from YouthBuild Newark (YBN), and partner schools Newark Leadership Academy (NLA) and Fast Track Success Academy (“Fast Track”) braved the winter chill to distribute care packages to the homeless in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

MLK Day 5

Serving hot food and coffee prepared by Kinard Family Helping Hands, for three hours, young adults and staff gave out packages in Franciscan Park, adjacent to Newark Penn Station Newark, which has long been a haven for homeless individuals. Care packets included toiletries and clothing to arm those in need against the cold temperatures.

MLK Day 10

Kinard Family Helping Hands, an organization formed in response to the call for all to provide a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rather than take a day off, has dedicated its efforts to feeding the homeless for 3 years.

Community service is one of YBN’s core principles. We firmly believe that providing young adults with opportunities to address community challenges awakens their social consciousness and enables them to view themselves as what they intrinsically are – change agents.

MLK Day 1


MLK Day 9

MLK Day 3