A local organization has made possible the college aspirations of nearly 1,000 Philadelphia students. For that work over the past 25 years, Philadelphia Futures was recognized as a Champion in Action today.
Citizens Bank, NBC10, the Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com recognized Philadelphia Futures as the first 2014 Champion in Action in the category of youth programming. Philadelphia Futures will receive a $35,000 unrestricted grant, media coverage, and extensive promotional and volunteer support for its outstanding work.
"This is certainly a great honor for us. Receiving this award could not have come at a more critical time," said Philadelphia Futures executive director Joan C. Mazzotti.
Philadelphia Futures prepares first-generation-to-college low-income students to enter and succeed in college. The organization was founded in 1989 and merged with the White-Williams Scholars program in 2011. Nearly 900 students have benefitted from the organization's programs and the organization boasts a 98 percent matricuating on to college.
"The program instilled in me the importance of hard work and taught me how to be driven and to never give up," said Amber Nichols, an alumnus of the program and graduate of Dickinson College. Nichols is pursuing a graduate degree at LaSalle University.
The award honors Philadelphia Futures for its efforts to help underserved students successfully make the journey to – and through – college. The grant will be used to support its new Outreach Futures initiative, which brings the organization’s expertise in college access to the broader Philadelphia community through programming and the publication and distribution of its Step Up to College Guide.
“Citizens Bank is pleased to name Philadelphia Futures as the newest Champion in Action for its work in youth programming,” said Dan Fitzpatrick, President, Citizens Bank, PA/NJ/DE. “By providing students with services and resources, including comprehensive college guidance, financial incentives and individualized staff support Philadelphia Futures is helping to fill a critical gap in the resources available to Philadelphia public school students in 2013-2014.”
Champions in Action is part of Citizens Helping Citizens Strengthen Communities, the bank’s program designed to enhance quality of life and economic vitality in local communities. It provides support for small nonprofit organizations to recognize their contributions throughout the five-county Philadelphia area. To date, the program has awarded 35 nonprofits more than $900,000 in grants and promotional support in Philadelphia.
“NBC10 and Telemundo 62 are pleased to let the community know about the important service Philadelphia Futures provides to area students,” said Eric Lerner, President and General Manager, NBC10 and Telemundo 62. “At a time in their lives when guidance and support is so critical, students can rely on programs like these to help them navigate the academic world and put them on a path to success.”
Mazzotti said the need has never been greater for the students she serves dues to the budget crisis in Philadelphia schools and because there is more competition for less financial aid at some colleges.
"Without a college education, it becomes difficult to have economic independence," said Mazzotti. "There is nothing you can do that is more important than helping a child with their education and provide them with a level playing field."