When 19 year-old Zurrell Toney enrolled at YouthBuild last year, he was focused on only one thing: a high school diploma. Looking back at his time at YouthBuild, our 2009 valedictorian says he ended up with so much more – including construction industry certifications, his Commercial Driver’s License, and new travel and life experiences.
He traveled to Guatemala to provide volunteer construction services, and took a trip to Washington DC in March, where he met First Lady Michelle Obama. During a four-week residential bridge program this summer, Zurrell had the opportunity to live and study at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, and he is now a full-time college student in their Business Administration program.
At our 2009 commencement ceremony, Zurrell thanked his fellow graduates and YouthBuild staff for helping him to succeed:
“Let me make one thing clear – there are no better models to see everyday than the staff members and students of Youth Build Philadelphia Charter School. I have learned to face my future with respect, excellence and perseverance because of this special group of loving people, willing to always put themselves last and us first!”
Zurrell learned to put himself first in order to become a better student. He says he previously failed to graduate because of the constant distractions in his former school environment. The small classes and personal attention at YouthBuild created an atmosphere where he could stay focused and flourish.
He graduated with a 3.8 GPA from YouthBuild, and plans to replicate the same achievements at Thaddeus Stevens in his accounting, public speaking, and business skills courses. After he earns an associate degree, Zurrell intends to continue his educational path at Temple University with the ultimate goal of starting his own business.