HomeHome Page FeaturedPhila. Futures, Steppingstone Scholars celebrate merger at GW

Phila. Futures, Steppingstone Scholars celebrate merger at GW

Jason Kelce with Washington principal Susan Thompson (to his left) and staff.
Jason Kelce is flanked by Sara Woods and Sean Vereen.

By Mark Ramos

Northeast Times

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Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars celebrated its official merger with a pep rally last week at George Washington High School. Now known as Heights Philadelphia, the merger came after a comprehensive 18-month period, which was funded by the William Penn Foundation and the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund.

It’s been a long road to get here. Sara Woods (former president of Futures) and Sean Vereen (former president of Steppingstone) had been discussing the possibilities since 2018.

“We met for coffee in 2018 talking about partnership,” Woods recalled. “From there we realized the synergy we had as leaders, but also the synergy in our work as well.”

Heights has an $11 million operating budget and 70 total staff members – 23 of whom are a part of the school district as either coordinators or advisers. The larger operational budget allows the new organization to serve 3,000 Philadelphia-area students. This will help create even more sustainable access to academic and workforce opportunities for students, especially black, Latino and first-generation students. The new entity will have a combined endowment of $30 million, which strengthens its long-term financial position as well. Woods and Vereen knew they had something big to say about the youth in Philadelphia.

“This was our realization, especially over the pandemic,” Vereen said. “Sara and I had similar missions and we wanted to serve more students. We are in 23 partner schools, which is more schools than we were in separately, in addition to 23 partnerships with colleges with the scholarship connected to it. We have opportunities centered around workforce and getting people engaged in workforce work, too.”

To help unveil the organization’s new name and identity, Eagles legend Jason Kelce attended the event to lead the GWHS students, the school band and cheer squad in a 3-2-1 style countdown revealing the organization’s new name and brand to be shared with the community. Having been a member of the city for well over a decade, it means something on a personal level to Kelce to continue to come out and support the community that has given him so much.

“I love being around our youth and this potential,” Kelce told the Times. “Obviously I’ve been here a long time and I’ve been very fortunate to play a game with the support and love this city shows me. So, it’s an honor for me to come out here, with these students and these kids, to support things that support them.”

Speaking of honors, Washington principal Susan Thompson was touched for an organization like Heights to choose her school to unveil its new brand.

“These two organizations have done so much for our community in Philadelphia,” Thompson said. “I’m very excited to continue with the nonprofit and now the Heights Philadelphia, I think it’s great; their model, how they work with the students and what they’re trying to do for Philadelphia, inspires me to be a better principal.” ••

For more information on Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholar prior to the merger, check out these links: Futures – https://www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaFutures; Steppingstone – https://www.facebook.com/steppingstonescholarsinc.

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