On February 27, 2013, students and staff from YBN and its sister school, Newark Leadership Academy (NLA), visited the YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School (“YouthBuild Philly”). It was a day of fellowshipping among adults and youth alike.


Students talked about the success of their individual programs, ways to improve them, and similarities and differences. Visiting staff learned about and witnessed YouthBuild Philly’s approach to classroom competency, instructional frameworks, restorative practices, and construction training.


One NLA student wrote about her experience:


My experience in YouthBuild Philly was a great experience, and I will cherish it forever. When my mentor Mr. McAfee [NLA Life Skills Coordinator] said to my peers and I that we were going to Philadelphia to see YouthBuild Philly, my first feeling about the situation was excitement because we finally were going somewhere outside of New Jersey, and I [never knew] that YouthBuild was outside of Newark. However, I was kind of anxious about how they [would] operate there. 


When we got there, it was beautiful. It was nothing like I see back home. I saw the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the Philadelphia School District was HUGE, and there were murals everywhere. When we got to YouthBuild Philly, it looked little from the outside but it was bigger than our school. When we first walked in to the 5th floor of the building, they welcomed us with open arms. It made me feel warm inside because these people were complete strangers and they treated us like we were the best of friends. 


I admit I’m a shy person and I don’t usually talk to people. I don’t know till I’ve known them for a couple of months but they broke me out of my shell after a few minutes. What really got to me was when one of the Philly students asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I told him I wanted to be a head chef or a professional tattoo artist and after that when we had to go to lunch, he pulled me aside and said “stop being shy, pick your head up. I see potential in you and can really see you being a tattoo artist.” Even though he didn’t know me from a can of paint, the fact he saw something in me touched me. 


When we were closing, we did shout outs and laughed and heard a student named Rich rap. It was fun. What I’ve learned at this trip is that no matter where you go, who you are, what you’ve been though, we all have the same story in a way. We all live on the same block, and instead of us feeling like we are just different schools, we’re all one big worldwide family. And if I can go back and do it all over again, I would again and again. 


As a charter school, YouthBuild Philly issues high school diplomas, offers vocational training – in construction, technology and healthcare, and community service. In addition, the school provides students with resources and support systems to maneuver the program, develop a sense of empowerment, and transition to full-time jobs and post-secondary educational and training programs.


Not only did YBN and NLA gain insight on what works, but also realized they were implementing similarly effective strategies. Staff at both YBN and NLA look forward to continuing to work with YouthBuild Philly to exchange and share practices that help disconnected young people become independent, empowered, and self-sufficient adults.


To learn more about YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, click here.