News & Events

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

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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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“Taking the Next Step” into a New School Year

Philadelphia Futures celebrates the start of a brand new school year and reflects on a year full of great accomplishments. 

CollegeKickoff 31 1The room was filled with enthusiasm and inspiration as 175 first-generation college students – all graduates of Philadelphia high schools – gathered together at the DoubleTree Hotel for Philadelphia Futures’ annual College Kick-Off event on Monday, August 15, 2016. 

With the theme “Taking the Next Step” the evening’s speakers and activities were designed to inspire students to be thoughtful and purposeful as they consider their next step – whether it be transitioning to college, applying to graduate school or starting a career.


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An Unforgettable Night with the Phillies

Philadelphia Futures spends a memorable evening at Citzens Bank Park    

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Thanks to the MLB Players Trust Association, Philadelphia Futures spent an unforgettable vening at Citizens Bank Park at the Phillies vs. Dodgers game on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.  Thanks to the Trust’s Buses for Baseball Program, Philadelphia Futures students were given the opportunity to take the field for pre-game practice and catch a rare, up-close glimpse of their baseball heroes. 

After practice, many Philadelphia Phillies players stopped by to sign baseballs and have a chat with the students, including longtime friend of Philadelphia Futures, Carlos Ruiz.  As a token of their immense appreciation, Philadelphia Futures presented the Phillies team with a “thank you” poster.  

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Carlos Ruiz and the Phillies "Got in the Game" for Philadelphia Futures

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On the evening of Wednesday, May 18, Carlos Ruiz and the Philadelphia Phillies "got in the game" with Philadelphia Futures. Get in the Game is a bowling tournament which pairs teams, sponsored by individual donors and businesses, captained by Phillies players and local media celebrities. The event raised $160,000 and was attended by more than 500 guests and supporters of Philadelphia Futures. Get in the Game took place at South Bowl in South Philadelphia.

The event was hosted by Carlos Ruiz for the sixth consecutive year. During the evening, Ruiz was inducted into the Philadelphia Futures "Hall of Fame" in recognition of his enduring support of the organization and his commitment to the mission of Philadelphia Futures and the students it serves.

The Phillies organization came out in full-force in support of the event. Ruiz was joined by all of his teammates including Ryan Howard, Aaron Nola, Freddy Galvis, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Tommy Joseph, Jeanmar Gomez and Vince Velasquez. Also attending for the Phillies were Manager Pete Mackanin and President Andy MacPhail. Phillies Director of Public Affairs, Scott Palmer, emceed the event.

The 500 Get in the Game guests bowled in the Tournaments and enjoyed the red carpet entrance, participated in the "Be a Phanatic" Raffle, stepped up to the plate in support of Philadelphia Futures' Field of Dreams, built the Winning Philadelphia Team in a baseball card sweepstakes, took part in the #PFGetintheGame live social media experience and were engaged in the evening's live auction.

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Annual Conference 2016: Be Your BEST Self

Philadelphia Futures Annual Conference 2016 Opening Session

Philadelphia Futures celebrated a new year at its 2016 Annual Conference – “Be Your BEST Self” – on Saturday, January 9, 2016, at Drexel University, which was attended by more than 550 members of its community – high school students, collegians, parents, mentors, supporters, Board members and staff.

Using the Wellness Wheel as its theme, the day-long Conference helped students consider new ways in which they might think about themselves and their futures in order to ultimately achieve college success. The Philadelphia Futures Wellness Wheel and its five wedges – Academic, Emotional, Financial, Social and Physical – are being utilized throughout this year as a tool to help students take concrete steps to being balanced in all areas of their lives.  

The Annual Conference began with opening remarks from Philadelphia Futures Executive Director Joan C. Mazzotti, who set the agenda for the Conference and the year ahead.

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