By | Published On: September 15th, 2017 |

Graduation always brings about a great feeling here at YouthBuild Philly. On August 25th, Zion Baptist Church was filled with pride and joy as loved ones, YB Philly staff and supporters awaited the arrival of the Class of 2017.

Before students made their strides into the ceremony, Ameen Akbar, Director of Student Life, in a “basketball coach-like” fashion, gave them a ‘pep-talk’. He reminded them of their journey, obstacles, and how deserving they were of the moment. Needless to say, after his talk they were “graduation ready.”



As the ceremony began, an excitement (that can’t quite be put into words) filled the room. Once the first note of Pomp and Circumstance played, smiles widened and eyes teared up as 101 YB Philly graduates marched into the sanctuary.

Executive Director, Scott Emerick, opened up with an empowering welcome address reminding graduates that “YouthBuild did not transform your lives, YOU transformed your own lives.”


Keynote Speaker, Otis Hackney, Chief Education Officer, expressed his admiration of the graduates for pushing through and accomplishing their goals. He shared some of the obstacles that he faced along his journey to success. He advised graduates to “keep their community with them as they take control of their future”.


Key community partners were honored with awards for their support and dedication to the growth and advancement of YB Philly students:

Benjamin Trinsey, District Manager at Starbucks Coffee Company was presented the YouthBuild Legacy Award.

Angela Hendrix, Director of Education & Professional Development at the General Building Contractors Association was presented the YouthBuild Meaningful Impact Award.

Tesandra Cohen, Program Manager of This Way Ahead at the Gap Foundation was presented the YouthBuild Champion Award.


Graduates who exemplified the YouthBuild values (Respect, Excellence, Perseverance) throughout the year were recognized with student awards.

Staff received awards of appreciation based on Students’ Choice:

Willa Deitch, Language Arts Teacher

Ameen Akbar, Director of Student Life

Obioma Martin, Child Development Associate Instructor

Charmeka Davis, recipient of the YouthBuild Excellence award, shared that “despite her difficult journey, YouthBuild gave her the chance to display the excellence that was already instilled within.”

Salutatorian, Jamison Dugan, encouraged the Class of 2017 to “always be the BEST version of yourself.”


Valedictorian, Damany Daley, shared a speech urging graduates “to never forget that big things have small beginnings and we are very small today.”


Roland Davis performed an original song called “Looking Back” that reflected on Class of 2017’s journey.


The most exciting moment was the presentation of diplomas and the official announcement of the 2017 graduates! The sanctuary was filled with heartfelt cheers, tears of joy and an excitement that could not be contained.


For many, this was more than a graduation. It was a MAJOR accomplishment.



Congratulations Class of 2017!


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