On Tuesday, Aug. 30, YouthBuild Philly kicked off its annual Student Mental Toughness Training (SMTT), inviting over 300 young people (ages 17-20) to join the Class of 2023! For background, SMTT is a fun, collaborative, but intensive four-day training, where applicants attend a series of workshops that provide an overview of YouthBuild’s climate, culture, and program. On the last day of SMTT, applicants take to the streets of Philadelphia to reclaim their education in our Annual Acceptance March.
On day one of SMTT and throughout the week, applicants line up alongside Broad St. until our doors open at 8:00 a.m. This year we invited the Camden Repertory Theater marching band to join us in welcoming our new applicants with great energy. The band marched up and down the street, performing a variety of musical ensembles and choreography. Once doors opened, applicants received a warm welcome from YouthBuild Philly staff, accompanied by music and snacks as they made their way to YouthBuild Philly’s community celebration room (CCR) to join our daily community meeting. YB Philly community meetings are led by Dean Donheen Boone and serve as a time to check in with our students and staff. During SMTT, community meetings specifically focus on setting expectations for the school year and educating applicants on YouthBuild’s program, culture, and core values: perseverance, respect, and excellence.
Over the week, applicants participate in multiple program-centered and team-building workshops that allow students to interact with staff more intimately and engage with their fellow applicants. They also learn which resources are available to them as students, such as housing and transportation assistance, counseling, job placement, and post-secondary transition.
The workforce selection workshop in particular is important as it provides applicants with an overview of each vocational track offered at YB Philly. Applicants must choose one of the following trades as a graduation requirement: Business Administration/Customer Service, Child Care, Culinary Arts, Healthcare, and Building Trades. Our job training takes place in real-world settings – e.g., at a nursing home, in a childcare facility, or on a construction site. As students learn these vital job skills, they also provide valuable volunteer service to their community. Following successful completion, students receive industry-recognized certificates and transition to college or career as critically conscious leaders, committed to positive change for themselves and their families.
On the fourth and final day of SMTT, applicants spent the morning creating hand-drawn posters in anticipation of our annual Acceptance March. The event kicked off at Broad and Thompson St. and ended at the Hampton Inn, located at 1301 Arch St., where we held our annual acceptance ceremony. It was a fantastic time as applicants and staff marched in the name of education, reciting the YB Philly chant, led by Mr. Ant – “When I say Youth, you say Build, YOUTH, BUILD, YOUTH, BUILD!” The YB Philly chant is a great way to get everyone excited, show our YB Philly pride, and make our presence known! Special thanks to the Camden Repertory Theater marching band for leading us in this effort – we truly appreciate their support. The march is always a highlight of SMTT, as it commemorates our students’ commitment to reclaiming their education.
Once the march ends at the Hampton Inn, applicants gather in a large conference to officially be accepted into the Class of 2023! Students are then allowed to share a few remarks describing their SMTT experience and what they look forward to accomplishing this year at YB Philly. The ceremony wraps up with a delicious lunch and students take squad photos before they are dismissed for the day.
Looking forward, the students move into a 1-week orientation and will officially begin classes immediately afterward (Sept. 12). Thank you to the Class of 2023 for their patience and for trusting us to guide them on this journey to achieve their graduation goals!
Good luck and we wish you a successful school year!
Best, YB Philly!