Before becoming an AmeriCorps member, John Laderer yearned for a clear direction. “I was somebody who was just floating by in high school,” he said. “I really wasn’t learning … and my reading, writing, and math scores reflected that.”
Eventually, he dropped out of his neighborhood high school.
But after his sister suggested that he apply to YouthBuild Philly, a program that puts former out-of-school youth on the path toward earning a high school diploma, Laderer realized that service to his community—a central component of the program—could actually help transform his own life.
“I didn’t realize how motivational and inspiring service could be,” Laderer said. “It’s uplifting. Everyone makes sure you put your best foot forward…It’s like a family.”
A few months after Laderer began his service, the city’s Preservation Alliance approached YouthBuild Philly with an interesting request. It involved John Coltrane, a world renowned saxophonist known for his artistic gifts.
Coltrane has long been regarded as a musical landmark in his adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Laderer learned that the musician’s North Philadelphia home, another historic landmark, needed preservation following years of wear and some fire damage.
He was excited about the prospect of learning new construction skills, and volunteered to join a preservationist and two other AmeriCorps members in repairing the house’s damaged porch.
During the project, Laderer learned about Coltrane’s musical influences and the city that inspired him to revolutionize the sound of saxophone music. He also re-installed porch columns and researched the field of restoration.
“I also learned that you can restore wood and bring it back to its original glory,” Laderer said.
But the Coltrane House is not the only thing Laderer believes he’s helped restore. His experience working with AmeriCorps and YouthBuild has renewed his vision for the future. And giving back to his community through service has inspired Laderer to work in the field of green technology.
“Now I’m excited about the idea of being an entrepreneur,” he added.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. We join the President in celebrating National African American History Month.