On Tuesday evening at Subaru Park, the Philadelphia Union Foundation inducted its latest cohort of high schoolers into the iAM Project, which was created to support aspirational students from low-income backgrounds in Chester to maximize their personal, academic and professional potential.
The foundation welcomed a cohort of 43 students from Chester Charter Scholars Academy to participate in impactful programming throughout the remainder of their high school careers, including Learn & Explore workshops with major companies, speaker series events, the Union’s summer internship experience, an overnight college experience at Neumann University, and a formal mentoring program.
The induction marked the third class of students from Chester Charter Scholars Academy to be admitted to the program, and Philadelphia Union Foundation pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.
“This is the beginning of the next phase of their career. We're gonna help them figure out what it is they want to post-18, and then we'll give them a mentor to help them get there,” said Paul Howard, the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation. “It takes a village to succeed in life, and these guys have seized the opportunity to join the iAM Project. Tonight we're making a fuss out of them, their names are in lights at Subaru Park, and we're going to celebrate and make them feel really special because they are special.”
Each student’s name was projected on advertisement boards throughout the stadium as the inductees, their loved ones, the program’s partners, and even Phang enjoyed dinner and mingled in the Stadium Club overlooking the pitch.
iAm Project’s first two cohorts of students were also in attendance, and the inaugural class, now seniors in high school, had the chance to meet with their virtual mentors for the first time. For the past two months, they’ve been meeting weekly on zoom, and as the group approaches graduation, those mentors will guide them toward the next steps in their careers.
At the end of the festivities, four students from the program spoke about the program and what it means to them.
“For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a lawyer. Seeing as though I'll be a first-generation college student, I don't have anyone in my family to help guide me in the right direction when it comes to succeeding,” said Sharlene Richardson, a 17-year-old iAM Project student. “Experiences like these never leave me. Everything that we have learned from you guys will come in handy sooner or later. I want to say thank you on behalf of myself and all of CCSA, we thank you for everything that you have done and will continue to do for us. Words cannot convey how grateful we are. This has been such a blessing and thank you again for this amazing opportunity,”
Richardson, along with her classmate Canei Young, recounted their Learn & Explore trips to places like BIMBO, Lincoln Financial Group, Neumann University, and Boeing, plus their summer internship at the Philadelphia Union.
“I got the chance to go to BIMBO who makes the Sara Lee bread, Entenmann cookies, and can’t forget the Takis! This summer, I got an internship at the Union and I was given my own project to work on. I created a highlight video for the Philadelphia Union players to get the emotions of the game. We met all different people from the Union and I learned how people that started from the bottom and were able to make the way up to the top to be a leader,” Young said. “The iAm Project has been great and I thank Paul Howard, everyone at the Philadelphia Union Foundation and all the businesses that partner with them for investing in me.”
The final speakers were two new admittees. Sophomores Sa’Liyah Johnson and Neah Lockett spoke about what they are most excited for as they embark on their first year in the program.
“My intention for applying for this program is to establish a network of relationships with people to open up opportunities for myself that will enhance my knowledge and life. Throughout this program, my goal is to learn more about who I am, get an idea of what I would like to pursue and to explore the opportunities that lie ahead. My hopes are that I will not only meet some amazing people that would mentor me and encourage me to discover my personal identity, but to gain the knowledge I need in order to enable me to view the world from a different perspective. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to the start of something that could change my life forever,” Johnson said.
The Philadelphia Union Foundation is honored to have recognized the present and incoming iAm Project students and all who help make the program’s vision come to life each year – if you or your company want to get involved with the iAM Project, email Paul Howard at email@example.com.