On March 11, PSAYDN honored twelve individuals and two organizations as Afterschool Champions for outstanding work in developing, supporting and promoting meaningful high-quality afterschool/out-of-school time programs to benefit children, youth and families across Pennsylvania. The annual champion recognitions emphasize the importance of afterschool and summer learning programs in the state. The awards align with PSAYDN’s mission to promote sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time youth development programs through advocacy and capacity building to enhance the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children, youth and families.
Patrick Dowd and his team at Allies for Children work tirelessly to build alliances and serve as a bold voice for policy and practice changes that improve the wellbeing of children in Allegheny County. For several years, Patrick and his team created a voting referendum to ensure that the afterschool community in Allegheny County secures a sustainable local funding source that provides support to high quality programs. He led the Our Kids Our Commitment initiative – one of the first of its kind in the state – that asked voters to increase property taxes to support afterschool.
In the November 2018 election, the initiative lost by a very small margin. Despite this, a larger community conversation began and it secured the interest of the county executive and his team to view afterschool programs as not only a necessity for our communities but also as assets and a way to build our economy and attract families to the region.
This interest resulted in a workgroup that provided recommendations to the county government on the vitality of the initiative to the region and how to accomplish sustainable local funding for afterschool. The workgroup provided two reports – Report to the County Executive and Public Engagement Summary – that were published September 2019.
The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and multiple other community organizations highly support Patrick Dowd and Allies for Children for their ongoing tenacity, deep knowledge, and commitment to ensuring that our region is able to provide the best for our kids. The work of Patrick and his team on the Allegheny County Children’s Fund provides a working model and catalyst for other Pennsylvania communities to take action to ensure funding for our most critical and vital asset – our kids.
Nominated by Wayne Jones, Citizen, and Tanya Baronti, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Under Vince Litrenta’s leadership, Sunrise of Philadelphia has supported youth who face adversity in discovering their strengths, experiencing success and preparing for their futures for more than 20 years. In collaboration with Drexel University, Sunrise of Philadelphia recently opened a seventh program site at Science Literacy Academy Middle School in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.
Through Vince’s tireless work, he and his team have provided academic enrichment, career and college programming, and workforce development to more than 1,000 youth annually. Student attendance and retention, as well as many academic indicators evidence the success of Sunrise. Importantly, Sunrise is a long-term Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, allowing their programs to influence the lives of countless numbers of Philadelphia’s youth.
I [David Garbe] met Vince just over a year ago at a PSAYDN event. It was immediately clear that he was passionate about creating robust and impactful out-of-school time programs. What makes him unique is the fact that he does not take a backseat approach to developing and delivering his program. Instead, he builds direct relationships with his constituents in the community through “boots-on-the-ground” efforts. It is important for Vince to create a sincere and intimate connection with the families and students that he serves.
Vince is a thoughtful and dedicated leader to his organization and team. He manages a staff of more than 20 individuals, constantly encouraging them to enhance the OST programs they offer. He is in tune with the overall pulse of the OST community and strongly advocates for OST visibility and support with state legislators to ensure long-term sustainability of OST services and programs.
Over the past 12 months, Vince has been a strong advocate of the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research programs and the two organizations are embarking on an authentic and meaningful partnership to bring STEM-related activities to Sunrise students.
Nominated by Dave Garbe, Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research (PSBR) and Suzanne O’Connor, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
Demetrius Weaver is the program director for Public Health Management Corporation Project L.Y.F.T. Demetrius oversees the Philadelphia Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), which provide academic advancement opportunities, as well as career readiness and academic support to local students after school.
Demetrius discovered his passion for mentoring young men and women because of several educators that made a difference in his life. These positive influencers helped him create his motto “Be the person you needed when you were younger”. He decided to help children through mentoring, tutoring, recreational activities, counseling and many other services.
In 2007, Demetrius began his journey to help youth from the School District of Philadelphia. In 2014, he continued his career as program leader at Public Health Management Cooperation and quickly advanced to program director. Demetrius has partnered with the Philadelphia Youth Network, while working at Public Health Management Corporation, which allows him to provide hundreds of job opportunities for youth each summer, as well as conduct professional development for his peers about the 21st CCLC program.
Nominated by Naas Yancey, Public Health Management Corporation
Through various Philadelphia nonprofits, Aurora Sanchez has supported youth to build safe spaces, develop as leaders and support change in their communities for more than a decade. In Aurora’s words, “I love working with young people. It is a privilege for me. It has taught me so much and I continue to grow and change in how I approach the work. I feel good about where I am in this work, but I also know doing this work well is a personal and evolving practice.” Thanks, Aurora!
Nominated by Dawn Frisby-Byers, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
Mary Velez has been working as a reading support specialist for the Pennsylvania Migrant Education Summer Program and afterschool programs in Lehigh Valley for the past four years.
The migrant student population encompasses many different languages, backgrounds and ethnicities. It is amazing to see how Mary connects with the children by honoring their cultures. She has been seen reading stories about heroes and traditions from Africa, Central and South America. The books Mary purchases help her students focus on learning a new language while reading stories from their own culture. She is one of those teachers who, despite the challenges, has decided to put her love and passion for educating and helping others first. Mary shares her findings and concerns from observing the students with program and school staff, and makes sure they follow up with the students.
Mary is very dedicated, creative, charming and compassionate. Despite the changes in student population and sometimes changes in the program, she demonstrates that for her the most important thing is to help the student. She is very proactive. Mary is one of those amazing people who goes above and beyond. She has been a motivational speaker at the Center two years in a row for the Lights On Afterschool community activity. She not only speaks about the importance of afterschool programs, but also about the great services the Migrant Education Program provides to children in the Lehigh Valley. Mary volunteers in parent workshops, taking care of the children by providing and engaging them in educational activities. She encourages them to participate and present their projects during the STEAM community workshops, Multicultural workshops and Parent Cafés. Mary is not only a great teacher; she is also a remarkable human being that inspires others.
Nominated by Ivelisse Dunham, Pennsylvania Migrant Program
Since 2012, Amy Bauschard has devoted her professional career to designing and sustaining afterschool programs that have helped children succeed in Erie’s neediest schools. From 2012-2019, she served as the director for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Mercyhurst University Carpe Diem Academy (CDA), an extended learning day program for K-2 students in Erie’s public schools.
Recognizing that children in rural districts often face significant and deleterious realities of life that impede their ability to do well in school, Amy co-wrote a 21st CCLC Cohort 10 Rural grant that received $3,000,000 funding across five years. Mercyhurst University and the rural district of Northwestern in Albion, Pennsylvania, continue the success of CDA and have created the Mercyhurst Early Learning Innovation Academy.
Amy holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Gannon University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education and has earned a principal’s certificate and certificate in reading.
Nominated by Susan Johnson, Mercyhurst University
George Fiocca has worked in out-of-school time (OST) programs for close to 15 years. George started as a summer camp counselor, where he found the significant impact OST programs had on children. He worked his way up to supervising the afterschool programs in his local community. In 2009, George became the director of the school’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), forging partnerships with local businesses and public officials. He developed a program that revitalized the school community. After the termination of a three-year grant, George was able to secure private funding to offer students a free summer program. Through his advocacy, he was able to have the school subsidize an afterschool program. George then secured the 21st CCLC grant for another cohort, while moving into a larger role in our school community.
He continues to be involved in mentoring, advocating, and developing a sustainability initiative for the end of this grant term. In recognition of his strong work with OST programs, he was acknowledged by the City Council of Philadelphia, receiving a citation of praise, which was presented at the school’s Lights On Afterschool event. George was featured in BOOST Collaborative’s weekly newsletter and asked to be an expert panelist at the BOOST Collaborative Conference on Success with Engagement of High School Aged Students. Through his successful development of innovative, theme-based summer programs, George presented at three national conferences – BOOST, U.S. Department of Education Summer Institute, and National Afterschool Association. He volunteers his time to serve on the 21st Century Statewide Advisory Board Committee, as well as aiding as a facilitator at ELO conferences. George’s commitment to OST programs is exemplary and his voice in our area is respected and emulated.
Nominated by Erin Dougherty, Philadelphia E&T Charter High School
Kelsey Waros’ passion for youth development, women’s empowerment, and education began with AmeriCorps KEYS, where she coordinated leadership and development programming for high schoolers. Afterwards, Kelsey sought to pass her zeal for service learning to the next generation by leading international youth through Washington D.C., examining and educating on gentrification trends, and then creating inclusive STEAM environments as an ESL teacher and enrichment staff at a local elementary school.
As a program manager at Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh, Kelsey had the pleasure of strengthening partnerships with universities, and expanding the program to serve 40 schools and community centers. With more than 700 girls and 400 college mentors, the relationships and systems built with others are crucial to the work of elevating women and girls. Kelsey is truly grateful for the wonderful collaborators she continues to work with to shape the leaders of tomorrow.
Nominated by Kimberly Baston, Strong Women, Strong Girls Pittsburgh
Creative Resilient Youth (CRY) considers themselves afterschool champions due to the ways they have invited teens throughout the city to blossom, whether it is through a personal or topic-based conversation, or helping them find the time and space to put their artistic skills to use. When meeting together, they create bonds to trust and hold important conversations that give insight and inspiration on how to help each other and the community.
As a result, CRY has held its annual spring Art Exhibit in 2019, visited United Nations by invitation, and came up with many plans and strategies to approach and work with student and teens within the Philadelphia School District, whether for organized events or weekend workshops.
CRY is currently in its second session, using new techniques of relationship building, data recording, and art making in order to expand and reach new faces. Intentions are to build a bridge between community and artistry, while broadening and transforming the perspective and stigma of mental health.
Nominated by Michelle Lee Delgado, Creative Resilience Collective
Jhordan Price is a junior at Propel Andrew Street High school. Jhordan started at the Propel Schools’ Afterschool Program in fifth grade at Propel Homestead. She consistently attended afterschool where she was recognized as a leader and advocate for youth voice. Last year Jhordan was hired to work at her former alma mater, Homestead, where, as an afterschool assistant supervisor, she helped throughout the program by being a mentor and role model for the younger students. Because of her excellent work in afterschool, she was asked to work at the Propel Summer Camp with students in grades 1 and 2. She was hired back this fall and continues
to show wonderful promise as a future leader.
Jhordan attended Advocacy Day in 2019 where she shared her passion for afterschool with legislators. Leadership has always been part of who she is as a person. She is a member of the International Congress of Youth Voices and was able to go to Puerto Rico for the conference in August of 2019. Jhordan believes that the voices of youth who will be this country’s future leaders are some of the most important voices, so she uses her voice while trying to encourage and empower others to use theirs. Because of her work as an afterschool assistant supervisor and her summer camp work, she fell in love with working with children and now plans on going to post-secondary school to be a music teacher. Everyone who knows Jhordan knows that she has a passion for performance art. She is a member of Alumni Theater Company and writes her own music. She hopes that her lifelong passion for art and this newfound passion for working with kids will create a future where she will be able to make a change in the world.
Jhordan is a member of the Propel Advisory Board Student Action Team and will be sharing her passion for afterschool and other student issues on the radio and with elected officials over the next few months. Look out world!
Nominated by Deanna Dugan, Propel Schools
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has built a long career of public service dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth in Pennsylvania. At 23, John joined Big Brothers, Big Sisters and threw himself into the program, mentoring his “little” – an 8-year-old boy who had recently lost his father to AIDS and whose mother was battling the same disease. Before she passed away, John promised that he would continue to look out for her son and make sure that he would graduate college. Fifteen years later, John and his little had both held up their ends of the bargain, with his little’s graduation from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.
The disparity between his own life and that of his little motivated John to quit his job and join AmeriCorps, where he served in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District for 2 years, helping to set up the first computer labs in the neighborhood and teaching GED classes to young mothers and fathers. He went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he focused on finding solutions in social work, business and public policy to confront urban challenges and economic inequality.
In 2005, encouraged by his students and motivated to do more to address the inequality that was plaguing his community, John ran for mayor. He managed to win the crowded primary by a single vote. During the last 12 years as mayor, John has worked to build Braddock back from the verge of extinction. He has applied the hands-on approach from AmeriCorps and his service experience to take steps to rebuild his community, bringing creative urban policy solutions to Braddock. He has worked with young people and artists to transform creative spaces downtown, and turned abandoned properties into urban gardens.
On May 15, Fetterman won the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. John was a part of the winning ticket along with incumbent Governor Tom Wolf. As Lieutenant Governor, John has emerged as one of Pennsylvania’s leading progressive voices for working people, running on issues like inequality and racial justice.
Recently John and his wife, Pennsylvania’s Second Lady, Gisele Fetterman, announced they would open the swimming pool at the now-uninhabited Lieutenant Governor’s residence outside Harrisburg. The focus would be on bringing in camps and other groups that work with children who otherwise would not have regular access to a pool — and help teach them about water safety in between some of the summer fun.
Nominated by Rosemary Anderson, Propel Schools, and Vincent Litrenta, Sunrise of Philadelphia
A lifelong resident of Cambria County, Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in November 2016.
In the 2019-2020 session, Wayne serves as the chair of the Senate Education Committee and is the vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Games and Fisheries, Labor and Industry, and Local Government Committees.
Senator Langerholc dedicated his career to protecting families and seeking justice for innocent victims of crime as a Cambria County Assistant District Attorney. As an Assistant District Attorney, Wayne served as the lead prosecutor for the Cambria County Drug Task Force, dedicated to teaching children the dangers of drugs and alcohol. His legislative priorities remain to curb the heroin and opioid drug epidemic.
The Senate Education Committee recently approved legislation (SB 850) sponsored by Senator Langerholc that would establish a pilot program to implement community-based services into Pennsylvania schools.
Senator Langerholc drafted the legislation as a result of a recent hearing that highlighted a number of innovative programs that are improving student support and learning by providing them with greater access to community resources. The legislation would expand upon an already successful model that is currently utilized at Greater Johnstown School District. Senator Langerholc stresses that community involvement in schools, such as afterschool, helps students to obtain the resources they need to learn better and reach their full potential.
Nominated by David John, Pennsylvania State Alliance of YMCAs
Allies for Children has taken a bold stance – they want ALL kids to have access to high quality afterschool opportunities in Allegheny County, where currently, just more than one million school-age children (ages 5-18) reside. In 2018, Allies played THE lead role in Our Kids, Our Commitment (OKOC), an initiative that advocated for establishing the Allegheny County Children’s Fund, which would have provided funding in three proven program areas, afterschool being one. Ultimately, these investments would result in children thriving and a stronger region. The funding would come from a small increase in the property tax (.25 mill, or less than $30 per year) for the average Allegheny County homeowner.
In the summer of 2018, OKOC collected nearly 64,000 individual signatures to get a referendum question on the November ballot. Significant community outreach – knocking on tens of thousands of doors, dozens of community meetings, and more took place throughout summer and fall. On November 6, 2018, 247,996 people (48.3%) turned out and voted yes to establishing the Children’s Fund; however, the measure did not pass, as 51.6% of the turnout voted no.
The work by Allies laid this critical foundation for Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County, to appoint a Children’s Fund Working Group in March 2019, comprised of nonprofit, corporate and public sector leaders. In October that same year, the Group presented a formal report that recommended the creation of a new county department dedicated to children, as well as an annual investment of up to $20 million to support high-quality early learning and out-of-school time programs. The report is currently being reviewed and contemplated by Fitzgerald and his team.
Allies for Children helped Allegheny County residents realize that we can – and must – do better for ALL children.
Nominated by Alicia Chatkin, Parent
Kharma Lowe and Amil Cook are the mentors for a dynamic group of students who have formed a Student Action Team with the goals of advocacy for afterschool and social and environmental issues. As students tell of lives lived in some of Pittsburgh’s most dangerous neighborhoods, they create a platform for change. Last year these young advocates presented a Youth Forum for the Propel Afterschool Advisory Board and the Propel Board. By the end of the forums, the adults in the room began to tell their stories. There was a sense of youth joining with adults, relating their journeys that, despite hardships, were filled with hope for the future. The Action Team also goes on the air with Saturday Light Brigade (SLB) on select Saturdays where they address a larger audience discussing the importance of afterschool.
On Advocacy Day, the Team met with legislators including Lieutenant Governor Fetterman who hails from one of their neighborhoods. Members from last year’s team have returned to continue seeking solutions for issues that they have identified. The mentors and students are change agents. The mentors give of their time, not from a sense of duty, but from a sense of urgency for these young advocates and their families. Kharma, Amil and the team spent a Saturday helping with a fundraiser for a Children’s Mission in Rwanda. They met with students from Rwanda who survived difficult childhoods to become college students. They saw the commonality that young people share across the world and they pulled support from each other. The students meet on a regular basis with their mentors and the SLB Radio who is documenting their journey and conversations. The topics come from them. The discussions are no holds barred. The adults have promised a platform for their concerns including trips to Harrisburg legislators’ offices. They are now learning to turn disillusionment into action. This is advocacy on students’ terms and that has made all the difference.
Nominated by Deanna Dugan, Propel Schools