Two education nonprofits announce intent to merge

Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars are merging to create an organization with a $10 million annual budget that will serve 3,000 city students a year.

The merger was made over an 18-month period and was aided by funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund.

The decision was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors for both Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars. Upon the official merger, which is subject to required governmental notices and approvals, the organizations will brand as a new entity.

“The merging of Steppingstone and Future is an unprecedented opportunity to better serve Philadelphia students through a wider reach and significantly enhanced programming,” said Sara L. Woods, president of Philadelphia Futures.

“Students are at the center of the work we have undertaken since December 2020,” Woods said. “Their voices and strengths have led Futures and Steppingstone to this moment. As we unite our services and programs, our goals are clear.

“We aim to increase pathways for life-sustaining careers by helping more students in the District persist and graduate from high school, as well as successfully earn a college degree or other postsecondary credential,” Woods added.

Founded in 1989, Philadelphia Futures provides support to Philadelphia’s low-income, first generation-to-college students with the tools, resources and opportunities necessary for admission and success in college.

Steppingstone Scholars was founded in 1999 and has provided academic enrichment programs and support to underserved students, their families and schools. The nonprofit serves students ages 10-24 by creating pathways beginning in middle school to college and career.

The new entity will be the preeminent organization in the city partnering with schools, colleges, and businesses to provide real pathways for students from low-income and underserved communities.

The nonprofit will have 71 employees total and 22 of those staff members will be embedded in the 22 of the School District of Philadelphia schools. By 2024, the nonprofit aims to serve 5,000 students annually.

Nearly $4.5 million will be spent annually on programming that will focus on creating a college and career culture and to support educational transitions to ensure graduation from high school.

In the next year, 300 internships will be provided to high school and college students.

The new entity will also have 21 partnerships that will provide college courses for credit to high school students, scholarship opportunities and collaboration around student advising and retention efforts to ensure college success.

“Both organizations were created out of a deep and abiding love for our city’s children,” said Sean E. Vereen, president of Steppingstone Scholars.

“That love leads us to a shared mission that creating educational and career opportunities for young people is the keystone to making Philadelphia a more just, livable, and prosperous city,” Vereen said.

“In merging, we bring together decades of expertise, capital, and partnerships, as well as talented staff committed to moving the needle on student success. This decision is about Philadelphia and the city we believe it can be, when we invest in our children,” Vereen added.

Woods and Vereen will serve as co-presidents and lead an executive team of eight. Woods will oversee organizational operations and innovation, while Vereen will oversee student outcomes and experience.

A reconstituted board of directors will be co-led by Steppingstone Scholars chair Deborah Hirtle and Philadelphia Futures chair Raj Tewari.

“As we enter this exciting new chapter, we believe our merged organizations will be even better positioned and prepared to meet the changing needs of Philadelphia students and deliver on our promise of creating pathways to economic mobility,” Hirtle said.

From The Philadelphia Tribune