News & Events

Philadelphia Futures Chosen as the First Case Study in "The Benchmarking Project”

After being identified as a high-performing college and success program, Philadelphia Futures was selected as the first of four case studies featured in the Benchmarking Project. 

The National College Access Network (NCAN) announced the results of the first case study done in the Benchmarking Project - a collaboration between NCAN, its members, and the National Student Clearinghouse determining college access and programs’ collective success in guiding students through enrollment and post-secondary success. 

After being identified as a high-performing program that other NCAN members can learn important lessons and strategies from, Philadelphia Futures was selected as the first of four case studies done for the Benchmarking Project. The case study highlighted “Philadelphia Futures’ data-driven decision-making, along with its peer-to-peer support, college admissions marathon, collegiate partnerships, and scholarship provision.” 

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Joan Mazzotti Honored by Philadelphia City Council for 16 Years of Exceptional Leadership


On Thursday, February 16, former Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures, Joan Mazzotti, was honored for her exceptional 16 years of leadership and dedication. 

Philadelphia Futures Board Member and Councilman-At-Large Allan Domb led the presentation of this resolution, which outlined Joan's impactful work. Under Joan's leadership, over 500 students have received their college degrees. An avid believer in educational equality, Joan has lived out her values at Philadelphia Futures every day.  

During her comments, Joan Mazzotti stated, "For the last 16 years, I have been privileged to be the Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures. This has not, for one moment, been a job for me. It is my passion and, in many ways, it has defined me. We are known for the purposeful pursuit of our mission to provide low-income, first-generation-to-college Philadelphia students with the skills, opportunities and resources needed to be admitted to and succeed in college.  We are resolute in helping our students reach their goal of a college degree and professional and personal success."

She continued, "Our results are strong and consistent. One hundred percent of our students graduate high school. Almost all attend college and our graduation rate is trending over 60% against this national rate of 11% of students living with families in the lowest economic quartile. But the true test of our strength of our organization is found in the success of our alums. In 2016, we surveyed our alums to evaluate the long-term outcomes of students who participated in the programs and as Councilman Allan Domb noted, the results exceeded our expectations."

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Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: Philadelphia Futures’ Sponsor-A-Scholar Alumni Survey Report Issued

Philadelphia Futures conducts a survey to assess students’ outcomes post-college and measure long-term impact of its work. 

Since 1990, Philadelphia Futures has supported the college aspirations of Philadelphia's low-income, first-generation-to-college students through its centerpiece program, Sponsor-A-Scholar (SAS.) With an average college graduation rate of 60% and a college graduation rate as high as 77% for individual classes, the Program’s results have far exceeded the 14% national college graduation rate for students from the lowest income quartile and are comparable to the 60% college graduation rate for students from high socioeconomic backgrounds. 

To look at students’ lives beyond college graduation and measure the long-term impact of its work, Philadelphia Futures engaged Elena Tamanas Ragusa Consulting to conduct a survey of Sponsor-A-Scholar alumni. For purposes of the survey, an alum was defined as a Program participant in the high school classes of 1994 through 2011 who completed his/her associate degree, bachelor's degree or received a certificate from a post-secondary program by 2015.  

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Annual Conference 2017: Taking the Next Step and Celebrating a Legacy

Legacy 16 logoOn Saturday January 7, Philadelphia Futures held its 2017 Annual Conference. Despite an unexpected snowfall, over 600 high school students, collegians, parents, mentors, guests and Board members attended the Conference, which was held on the campus of Drexel University. 

The theme of the 2017 Conference, “Taking the Next Step,” not only recognized Executive Director Joan Mazzotti as she steps down from her position, but also the important next steps to be taken by Philadelphia Futures’ students as they advance in school and careers. 

The Annual Conference began with opening remarks from Joan who stressed to the audience that we must remain purposeful in our mission, strong in our execution and unyielding in our beliefs. "Philadelphia Futures is a beautifully inclusive community, grounded in the respect we have for each other. Accordingly we must unwaveringly reaffirm that we are one with members of our community who are of color, identify as LGBTQ, and are non-United States citizens or members of religious groups who are threatened with governmental restrictions.” 

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Philadelphia Futures Names Sara L. Woods as Next Executive Director

VIP ABN0583On Saturday, Philadelphia Futures held the Annual Conference to begin 2017 with the theme "Taking the Next Step." The event jumpstarts the calendar year with both recognition of accomplishment and inspiration to guide students, mentors and families for the months ahead. The centerpiece of this year's conference was a celebration of Joan Mazzotti's legacy as she steps down from the Executive Director role after 16 years of truly exceptional leadership. The staff orchestrated a heartfelt reflection on the impact of Joan's tenure at Philadelphia Futures. 

Today, the Philadelphia Futures Board of Directors announced the appointment of Sara L. Woods as Philadelphia Futures’ next Executive Director.

“Sara has spent her entire career advocating for underserved populations and communities. Her energy, experience and passion for this field of work immediately drew the attention of the Search Committee members, who along with our Board, unanimously selected her as Philadelphia Futures’ Executive Director,” said Laura Williamson, Chair of the Board of Philadelphia Futures. “Sara fulfilled our goal of engaging a leader with demonstrated commitment to addressing and solving community issues—one who will make a direct and measurable impact on underserved students in Philadelphia.” 

Sara joins Philadelphia Futures from Philadelphia VIP, a legal services agency for low-income individuals and families, where she has been the Executive Director for over nine years. During her tenure at Philadelphia VIP, she tripled the organization’s overall revenue, significantly improved outcomes for clients and established VIP as the hub of pro bono legal services in Philadelphia. Prior to her work at Philadelphia VIP, she was the Director of Public Service Careers and Pro Bono Programs at Villanova University School of Law, and Staff Attorney at Women Against Abuse and the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County. She holds a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University, a Master’s in Public Administration from Villanova University and a J.D. from Villanova University School of Law.

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12 Months at Philadelphia Futures

Philadelphia Futures Releases Annual Report PFARcover2016

Philadelphia Futures is proud to announce the release of the 2015-2016 Annual Report: "12 Months at Philadelphia Futures."

The Report offers a true "year-in-the-life" experience and takes the reader behind-the-scenes of Philadelphia Futures. Through a series of vignettes, the year unfolds providing a window into the lives of the students and the commitment of the staff, Board, volunteers, donors and friends.

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The Guide Has Gone Mobile


Philadelphia Futures is excited to announce the launch of its new Step Up to College mobile app.

The app provides students, parents and youth-serving professionals with enriched access to key components of the print edition of the Step Up to College Guide whenever and wherever needed.  

“We are excited to be offering an interactive mobile app to accompany our popular Step Up to College Guide,” said Joan C. Mazzotti, Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures. “As apps have become an increasingly popular way of receiving information, it was essential that we embrace this technology and meet students where they are. With the addition of the app, the Guide is now an even more powerful resource for Philadelphia’s college-bound students. Our great thanks to PECO, our Board member and Exelon IT Vice President, Michael Menendez, and his team, for their support of this effort.” 

The Step Up to College Guide is a Philadelphia tradition with over 40,000 copies distributed annually to public, public charter and parochial high schools, the Free Library of Philadelphia and community-based organizations.

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Interactive features of the mobile app include a formula to help students determine schools’ academic, social and financial fit; the ability to note responses to questions asked on college visits; tips on how to conquer the FAFSA and find scholarships; a college cost calculator that allows students to analyze and compare financial aid offers; and grade-specific checklists to help students and their families stay on track. 

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"The Sky's the Limit:" The Charles Ellis Trust Scholars Conference

Ninety Young Women Gathered for a Day of Empowerment at the Philadelphia Futures’ Ellis Trust Scholars Conference and Received a Special Surprise at the End.


The room was silent as the 90 young women in attendance at the Ellis Trust Scholars Conference opened their secret purple envelopes. Soon, an outburst of cheers and applause cresendoed as the girls realized they each were receiving a $100 shopping experience to purchase professional attire.  

On Saturday, October 29, 2016, the Ellis Trust Scholars Conference took place at the DoubleTree Hotel in Center City. The theme of the Conference was “The Sky’s the Limit,” affirming the belief that when there is no glass ceiling, the sky is the limit. Young women in grades nine through twelve, who are recipients of grants from the Ellis Trust, and their parents, gathered for a day of inspiration, empowerment and skill-building. 

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The 28th Edition of Step Up to College Is Now Available

HighResCoverPhiladelphia Futures has released its 28th edition of Step Up to College: Philadelphia’s Guide to the College Preparation, Application, Admissions & Financial Aid Processes – a 68-page publication designed to shepherd high school students and their college support teams through each stage of the college admissions and financial aid processes.

Beginning in late September,  Philadelphia Futures began the distribution of 42,000 print copies of Step Up to College to every public, public charter and parochial high school in Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, government offices and community-based organizations. Step Up to College is available without cost to eliminate any barriers to access.

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Joan C. Mazzotti to Step Down as Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures After 16 Years

 Joan Get in the Game

The Board of Directors of Philadelphia Futures announced that Joan C. Mazzotti will step down as Executive Director after 16 years of extraordinary service. Ms. Mazzotti plans to stay through the first of the year, or until her successor is in place, ensuring continuity and a smooth transition in leadership. 

“Joan Mazzotti’s exceptional leadership over 16 years has shaped an organization that deeply understands and serves the needs of first-generation-to-college students.” said Laura Williamson, Chair of the Board of Philadelphia Futures. “Joan’s agility in transforming a vision to action with measurable results is evident in every part of the organization today from the depth and reach of the program to the loyalty and generosity of our donor base.” 

Ms. Mazzotti said, “One attribute I admire in leaders is knowing when change will be beneficial to the future of an organization. After much consideration, I have concluded that Philadelphia Futures is approaching the point at which new leadership will have an important, positive impact. As I want to be like Derek Jeter and hit a walk-off on my last at-bat, I realized that this is the right time for me.” 

“The year just ended was very strong; it was a triple if not a home run. We have an enormously talented and effective staff; Philadelphia Futures is financially sound; and our students and programs are thriving. As we enter the fifth year of our current Strategic Plan, we soon will need to embark on a new planning process; accordingly, it is time for me to pass the mantle to the person who will be implementing the blueprint for the organization’s future.” 

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