Class 18 Opening Ceremonies at YouthBuild Providence

Class 18 Opening Ceremonies at YouthBuild Providence

by Elijah Stephenson (Class 15)

YouthBuild Providence celebrated its opening ceremonies on Tuesday September 23rd. This was the first time YBP had invited the public to take part in the event, also known as Harumbi. The YouthBuild Providence community welcomed new scholars and celebrated the start of the new school year. The ceremony included important rituals that define the beginning of each scholar’s YouthBuild education. Students received their YouthBuild Providence pins and recited the YouthBuild Providence Philosophy publicly for the first time. It was a momentous occasion and an energetic and inspiring beginning to their time at YBP.

School Board President Keith Oliveira served as the night’s keynote speaker stating that “YouthBuild Providence is a program that we believe in and we know why we (Providence Public School Department) should invest”.  He was preceeded by U.S. Congressman David Cicilline who remarked, “The State of Rhode Island needs YouthBuild Providence”. They shared their support and commitment to the YouthBuild movement and commented on the tremendous and positive impact the program has had on the Providence community.


Keith Oliveria, Providence School Board President

Before the opening ceremony, scholars went through a two-week Rites of Passage, where they were challenged physically, emotionally, and mentally. A Rite of Passage is an intense educational and life experience that helps guide people to an enlightened (inner knowing) state of awareness about their personal powers and indwelling strengths[1]. The Rites of Passage marks the significant stages of growth that take place in a person’s life.

These stages of growth, whether formal or informal, take a person through a series of challenges, allowing them to become wiser and stronger after completing the process. Throughout the two-week Rites of Passage, scholars engaged in many team building exercises, including a ropes course, along with a variety of individual tasks that challenged them to remove any feelings of guilt or fault they were carrying on their shoulders from past experiences. Scholars and staff even chose warrior-scholar names. I chose Fire-Storm, someone who will leave a mark wherever he goes.

YouthBuild Providence has been inexistence for 18 years and throughout those years we have built 19 homes for low-income families.  Additionally, the program has helped countless students achieve their GED, and recently has assisted close to 20 students in getting their high school diplomas as a result of our 2 year partnership with the Providence Public School Department.  Combine those successes with our Build-A-Bed events, which provide beds for children in Providence who might otherwise not have somewhere to sleep, and YouthBuild Providence is providing much needed service to our community.

Our opening ceremony with Class 18 is the first of many, and we know the transformation our scholars have begun will continue to grow throughout the school year; we cannot wait to see how far they will go. The love that was felt in the auditorium during the ceremony was overwhelming. Scholars entered as boys and girls and left as young men and women. They know who they are; “People of the past, living in the present, working toward the future”. This was only the second week of school and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for us.


YouthBuild Providence is an affiliate program of YouthBuildUSA.  For more information visit


[1] From Coalition of Schools for the Education of Boys of Color Sankofa Passages Program,