Program founders believe financial empowerment for high school students and their families can help overcome economic barriers and combat poverty
PHILADELPHIA – February 22, 2021 – Today marks the launch of Philadelphia Financial Scholars, a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to help Philadelphia high school students and their families take on systemic challenges and develop wealth-building tools through access to financial literacy and entrepreneurship education.
Philadelphia Financial Scholars originated when the FS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Philadelphia-based asset management firm FS Investments, partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships to create a financial literacy program for high school students. Since that time, the program has expanded significantly and now includes in-class financial literacy education, after-school entrepreneurship training, a summer business accelerator program at Wharton, and a nights-and-weekends curriculum for families, caregivers and teachers. The program is currently operating in 15 schools, both public and charter, and has reached more than 1,500 students.
Building on this proven model, other companies in the Philadelphia financial services community as well as several law firms, accounting firms and community organizations have come together to form a new standalone non-profit, expand the program, and reach more families and students with these critical financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs.
Philadelphia Financial Scholars’ founding partners include Board Chair Mike Gerber of FS Investments, Vice Chair Brian Gildea of Hamilton Lane, Treasurer Brendan Clark of Clark Capital Management Group, Secretary Marc Bryant of FS Investments, and board members Noreen Beaman of Brinker Capital, Dr. Toni Damon of Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, Dr. Kelly Davenport of the Freire Schools Network, Josh Deringer of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, Mimi Drake of Permit Capital Advisors, Mia Fioravanti of FS Investments, Keith Leaphart of Philanthropi and the Lenfest Foundation, Ryan Oswald of EY, Sulaiman Rahman of DiverseForce, Bill Sasso of Stradley Ronon, Jeff Wicklund of The Enterprise Center, and Rob Zion of TIFF Investment Management. Other supporting firms include Dechert LLP, Macquarie Asset Management and Spouting Rock.
“We are so pleased to now have such a terrific collection of partners working together to address Philadelphia’s most significant societal issue – systemic wealth inequality,” said Mike Gerber, Chair of the Philadelphia Financial Scholars board and a long-serving executive at FS Investments. “The Philadelphia financial services community has always been generous, but this is the first time we’ve all coordinated on such an ambitious mission.”
Brian Gildea, Vice Chair of the Philadelphia Financial Scholars board and Head of Investments at Hamilton Lane, commented: “Financial education is crucial to bridging the wealth gap, and we believe this program will go a long way toward changing the economic trajectory for many Philadelphia families.”
“Tragically, Philadelphia is the poorest large city in America and we’ve come together to do something about that,” said Brendan Clark, Treasurer of the Philadelphia Financial Scholars board and CEO of Clark Capital Management Group.
The new nonprofit will also expand upon historic partnerships with the City of Philadelphia. The program currently operates in all participating high schools of the Mayor’s Community Schools Initiative.
“We need more public, private and philanthropic partnerships like this to help address the inequality the pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I applaud this leadership group for coming together to expand an already impactful program.”
“Philadelphia Financial Scholars gives students innovative and meaningful career preparation,” said Dr. Toni Damon, principal at Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, one of the Mayor’s Community Schools that has partnered with Scholars to train students in developing their own business plans. Damon is also a board member of Philadelphia Financial Scholars. “We are extremely fortunate to have the program at Dobbins and I am proud to help Scholars reach more schools and students as a member of the board.”
Students engaged in after-school entrepreneurship training also have the opportunity to compete in an annual Financial Scholars Business Pitch Competition. During this summer’s competition, which was held virtually, several teams offered solutions to problems presented by COVID-19.
“My team is called MasKonnect,” said Mabinty, a 12th-grade student at Freire Charter School. “Our business provides protective masks to people living in nursing homes.” Mabinty is also utilizing Scholars mentor support to navigate the college application process. “My mentor helped me with my personal essay. I’ve already been accepted to five colleges.”
About Philadelphia Financial Scholars:
Philadelphia Financial Scholars aims to help students and their families build greater wealth and achieve financial empowerment through access to financial literacy and entrepreneurship education. Visit philadelphia.financialscholars.org to learn more.
About the Netter Center for Community Partnerships:
Founded in 1992, the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships is the University of Pennsylvania’s primary vehicle for advancing civic and community engagement at Penn. It brings together the resources and assets of both the University and the wider community to help solve universal problems such as poverty, health inequities, environmental sustainability, and inadequate, unequal education as they are manifested in the University’s local geographic area of West Philadelphia and Philadelphia at large. The Netter Center develops and helps implement democratic, mutually transformative, place-based partnerships between Penn and West Philadelphia that advance research, teaching, learning, practice, and service and improve the quality of life on campus and in the community. The Netter Center works with and serves as a model for other higher education institutions across the United States and around the world.