• ChangingLives
  • CreatingOpportunity2014
  • BuildingRelationship
  • ShapingLeaders2
  • MasteringSkills 2


About Us Overview

Philadelphia Futures

About Us

Philadelphia Futures is a nonprofit organization that provides Philadelphia's low-income, first-generation-to-college students with the tools, resources and opportunities necessary for admission to and success in college. We transform lives by breaking down the barriers that have historically excluded low-income, first-generation-to-college students from achieving college success. The students Philadelphia Futures serves are provided with a comprehensive, time-tested array of programs designed to reduce the institutional, academic, social and financial barriers to college success.

Provide low-income, first-generation-to-college students with the tools, resources and opportunities necessary for admission to and success in college.

Philadelphia Futures will transform lives by breaking down barriers that have historically excluded low-income, first-generation-to-college students from college success.

Guiding Principle
A college education is the portal to economic self-sufficiency and a satisfying life.

Through our two direct service programs, Sponsor-A-Scholar (SAS) and College Connection, we annually serve nearly 600 high school and college students with academic enrichment services, personalized college guidance, placement and retention services and financial resources. Unique in their depth and duration, these intensive, individualized programs support students from high school through college completion. Our Sponsor-A-Scholar Program has served students for over 25 years and has produced extraordinary results: 98% of students have matriculated to college. The projected college graduation rate for recent Sponsor-A-Scholar classes is 71%.

Through our Outreach Futures initiative, including its centerpiece component the Step Up to College Guide, we offer college guidance resources to students, families, schools and community-based organizations in Philadelphia. We also serve as the administrator of the Charles E. Ellis Trust for Girls, which provides financial resources to Philadelphia girls living in low-income, single-parent households.

Working with volunteer mentors, donors and school and college personnel in direct service to students, in partnership with educational institutions and in advocacy activities in the broader community, Philadelphia Futures increases the percentage of Philadelphia graduates prepared for higher education and reduces the institutional barriers to their academic success. Our model succeeds because it is built on a shared sense of responsibility for the future of Philadelphia.

We invite you to learn more about Philadelphia Futures and our programs, services and results by exploring this website and reading our Annual Report.

Organization History

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.

Fast Facts

IMG 9285

Philadelphia Futures has produced significant and measurable results that have made our approach a model for organizations nationwide. 

  • Philadelphia Futures was founded in 1989, and White-Williams Scholars was founded in 1800. The organizations merged in July 2011.
  • The Sponsor-A-Scholar direct service program was launched in 1989.
  • Annually, more than 500 low-income, first-generation-to-college high school and college students are served through Philadelphia Futures' Sponsor-A-Scholar and College Connection Programs.
  • Over the last 25 years, 98% of Sponsor-A-Scholar students have matriculated to college.
  • 100% of the High School Class of 2017 graduated from high school and was accepted to college.
  • The Class of 2013 has a four-year college graduation rate of 60% and a projected six-year graduation rate of 75%.
  • The projected college graduation rates for the Sponsor-A-Scholar High School Classes of 2009-2013 is 71%.
  • 83% of students who matriculated at a Philadelphia Futures partner college have graduated or are still enrolled in school working towards their degree.
  • Nearly 1,000 individuals have served as volunteer mentors in the Sponsor-A-Scholar Program.
  • In fall 2013, Philadelphia Futures launched its College Connection direct service program and Outreach Futures initiative.
  • White-Williams Scholars Incentive Awards, which include financial assistance, are granted to Sponsor-A-Scholar and College Connection students who exhibit academic excellence, commendable character and active engagement in their Philadelphia Futures programs.
  • Urban young men of color face overwhelming obstacles on their journey to college. In response to this national crisis, in 2006, Philadelphia Futures created the Young Men's Initiative, which provides young men with opportunities to be exposed to positive male role models and helps to foster positive personal and academic outcomes.
  • Annually, Philadelphia Futures publishes and distributes – at no cost to students and their families – more than 40,000 copies of the Step Up to College Guide, and also makes the Step Up to College Video Series and accompanying digital media resources available on www.stepuptocollege.org and www.youtube.com/stepuptocollege. In 2016, the free Step Up to College mobile app was launched providing enriched, interactive access to the Guide. 
  • Each year, as the administrator of the Charles E. Ellis Trust for Girls, Philadelphia Futures awards more than $1 million in grants to young women residing in single-parent homes in Philadelphia for tuition assistance and to fund life-changing, academic enrichment programs.

The complete 2016-2017 Program Performance and Results from our most recent Annual Report can be downloaded here


Step Up to College Guide

To help local high school students and their families navigate the path toward college, Philadelphia Futures annually publishes the award-winning publication, Step Up to College: Philadelphia’s Guide to the College Preparation, Application, Admissions & Financial Aid Processes.

Forty-thousand copies of Step Up to College are distributed to public, parochial and charter high schools, libraries, and many community-based organizations. 

Available to students and their families without cost, this critically important publication offers information about how to pursue postsecondary application, the college application process, and financial aid resources.