Philadelphia Futures: a union of White-Williams Scholars and Philadelphia Futures

Philadelphia Futures and White-Williams Scholars had long shared a mission to provide high-potential, economically disadvantaged Philadelphia students with life-changing programs and resources as they made their way to and through college. Recognizing the impact that a combined organization could have, on July 1, 2011, Philadelphia Futures and White-Williams Scholars merged and became one organization. The union builds on the rich tradition and experience of both organizations, allowing us to make an even more significant impact on low-income, first-generation-to-college students in Philadelphia.

The newly merged organization undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process in September 2011 to leverage the strengths of both organizations and expand the depth, reach and scope of the services offered to Philadelphia students. The Strategic Plan was developed with the input of over 150 stakeholders and was approved by the Board of Directors on July 19, 2012. The Strategic Plan informs and drives Philadelphia Futures' operations and planning as we move forward.

With its Strategic Plan in place, Philadelphia Futures was poised to bring its services to greater scale and to leverage its track record of successfully serving low-income, first-generation-to-college students through its Sponsor-A-Scholar (SAS) Program, in 2013, Philadelphia Futures launched its direct service College Connection Program and its Outreach Futures initiative, which brings the organization's expertise and resources to the broader Philadelphia community.

Recognizing the power of combining financial assistance with academic and personal support, beginning in 2013, White-Williams Scholars Incentive Awards are granted three times per year to eligible high school students participating in Philadelphia Futures' Sponsor-A-Scholar and College Connection Programs. Award recipients exhibit academic excellence, commendable character and positive, active engagement in Program classes and activities.

History of White-Williams Scholars: 1800-2011

Founded in 1800 as the Magdalen Society, White-Williams Scholars is one of the oldest charities in the United States, with more than 200 years of service to Philadelphia. Throughout its history, the organization's programs and services evolved to meet society's changing needs.

The Magdalen Society was established when prominent Philadelphians, including the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Bishop William White, met at the Friends School House on Pine Street to create a place for "wayward" women to rebuild their lives through education, vocational training and service. 

Around 1914, the Magdalen Society adapted a new direction for its work, focusing on providing stipends to prevent students from leaving high school for financial reasons. The organization also counseled those ready to graduate on determining how to earn a living. To reflect its new focus, in 1918, the Magdalen Society changed its name to the White-Williams Foundation after its first president, Bishop White, and former Board Chairman and Quaker merchant, George Williams. At this time, the Foundation began serving both boys and girls.

In 1918, White-Williams also developed the concept of in-school guidance counseling, an important legacy that endures in American schools today. The Foundation hired the first counselors for public and parochial elementary schools, and later in 1921, for secondary schools. In 1942, White-Williams counselors became employees of the School District.

To meet the growing needs of Philadelphia public school children and to keep pace with changes in the School District, The White-Williams Foundation developed new services in vocational guidance and placement, nutritional instruction, psychological testing and courses in social work for teachers. The School District later absorbed these services.

For many decades, the organization provided financial stipends that helped students stay focused on their academic goals while in high school.

The organization again adapted itself to support the needs of public school students and expanded its financial support to emphasize preparing students for college admission. The Foundation changed its name to White-Williams Scholars to mirror its mission to recognize and encourage high achieving "scholars."

White-Williams Scholars began serving as the Administrator for The Charles E. Ellis Trust for Girls, which funds educational and personal development opportunities for girls in Philadelphia who live in low-income, single-parent families.

White-Williams Scholars established its College Connection Program to provide direct services and resources to support students' journey to – and through – college.

History of Philadelphia Futures: 1989-2011

Throughout its history, Philadelphia Futures has been driven by the belief that children can transform their lives through the power of education and deep comprehensive services. The organization has remained true to its vision to help low-income, first-generation-to-college students in Philadelphia enter – and succeed in – college.

Philadelphia Futures, and its Sponsor-A-Scholar (SAS) Program, was founded with the vision of educator Marciene Mattleman. Years before mentoring gained a place in the national spotlight, Philadelphia Futures understood that caring adult mentors, combined with high expectations, academic support and financial incentives, could enable motivated, low-income students to attend – and succeed in – college. This award-winning, college access and retention program has grown from a mentoring program into a comprehensive, intensive, multi-year array of services.

Philadelphia Futures recruits its inaugural Sponsor-A-Scholar class.

To expand its reach to students throughout the City, Philadelphia Futures publishes the first edition of Step Up to College: Philadelphia's Guide to the College Preparation, Application, Admissions & Financial Aid Processes.

The first Sponsor-A-Scholar class graduates from high school and Philadelphia Futures begins supporting students during their college years through its College Retention and Success Services.

Philadelphia Futures forms its first groundbreaking strategic college partnership with Gettysburg College. The network has since expanded to include other colleges and universities who likewise are dedicated to diversity and equal access to education and who provide significant on-campus support and financial aid packages for Philadelphia Futures students.

Philadelphia Futures launches its Young Men's Initiative (YMI) to provide gender-specific resources and support to male students as they navigate high school and prepare for college and to lead enriching lives. Philadelphia Futures is committed to improving educational and life outcomes for young men of color living in urban poverty who are most at risk in today's society.