Unity in the Community Paying Academy celebrated its first graduating class of at-risk youth across the city of Philadelphia on Monday night in South Philadelphia.
Guest speakers included Mayor Jim Kenney, Tiffany White of City Council Member Kenyatta Johnson’s office and other community leaders.
“Today is our graduation ceremony for the carpentry academy,” said Anton Moore, president and founder of Unity in the Community. “Seventeen students have been in our program for a year, so they will graduate after learning how to assemble kitchens, lay floors and hang doors, as well as other important carpentry skills.”
Before the awards ceremony, Moore said some of the young men who participated in the carpentry academy had been convicted of gun possession and other crimes but had since turned their lives around. Unity in the community paid academy provides an opportunity to keep these young people on the right track and have the opportunity to get a job.
Unity in the Community Platnitsa Academy welcomed its first class last summer. The program started on August 5, 2021. The year-long program taught the youth the basics of carpentry, provided a monthly stipend for the students as well as mentoring, organized monthly trips and invited various speakers to speak to the youth.
“I hope this program and ceremony will leave a positive reflection, a positive feeling and a different perspective on life,” Moore said. “They can do anything if they put their mind to it, just like they do their best, study a major, go to school, but also understand that there’s more to life than what they see every day.”
The Community Unity Foundation has raised nearly $100,000 to make this program possible. Their carpentry program accepted young people between the ages of 15 and 19. This differs from most traditional trade and professional programs that require participants to be 18 or older.
In addition to receiving a program achievement award, each graduate received a certificate from Johnson’s office, flowers from Daily Dove Care and $350.
Moore acknowledged the many supporters, sponsors and donors for their help.
“The City of Philadelphia, Ryan Boyer from Construction Industries, State Senator Anthony Williams, Council Member Kenyatta Johnson, State Representative Jordan Harris, Fadwa Robinson from Daily Dove Care, Food for Your Soul, Mr. Potts and many others,” Moore said.
“When I watched Anton put it together, I was really impressed,” said Youth Action executive director Anthony Phillips of Moore. “As a teacher, I am involved in youth development and help students enter university and find a career job. Working in schools as an educator, I have noticed that many of our young people have a need and desire to do something other than go to college. And often there aren’t any opportunities or exposure that would give students something like that. So I joined Anton to help him think about it and supported this initiative because I thought it was important that students really have the opportunity to do something that can make them a great career outside of having to go to college.”
Kenny said the graduates gained valuable lifelong skills.
“We are proud of what you have achieved,” the mayor addressed the graduates in his speech. “And your families are very proud of you. You have accomplished something that will allow you to be independent in your life, to work where you want to work, to make as much money as you want to make legally, and to actually have the skills to fix your house. Do things for your friends. It’s just a wonderful thing.
“I’m from South Philly myself and I’m very proud to be from here,” Kenny said. “I also want to say a word about Anton Moore. Never in my life have I met a man so unselfish, who never asks for anything for himself—never. And he is always there in good and bad times. I say he is one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Graduate Kazif Hudgins said he’s excited and can’t wait to put what he’s learned to use.
“I want to use the skills I’ve got to work in big industry or a union,” he said.
The next Unity in the Community carpentry course is expected to start next month.