Eagles' Kelce helps Philly nonprofits announce merger to support students in underserved communities

Students at George Washington High School in Somerton, Philadelphia were in for a big surprise on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce made a guest appearance as part of the big merger announcement between Philadelphia Futures and Steppingstone Scholars.

The two well-known and trusted organizations are partnering to become Heights Philadelphia.

"Heights is purposely driven towards providing not just educational resources, but also for providing paths towards success post-high school," said Kelce. "I’m very involved in our foundation and the things that we’re doing right now, and Heights Philadelphia, I’m going to want to be involved with them as well."

The formers presidents of the two groups Sara Woods of Futures and Sean Vereen of Steppingstone are now the co-presidents of Heights.

The nonprofit has an $11 million operating budget and 70 staff members. It will serve 3,000 students across 23 schools in the Philadelphia School District, prioritizing students who are Black, Latino and first-generation college students.

"Heights is making it easier for you to access advisors, enrichment programs, resources and internships that support your success," said Woods.

"It means we want to get you a job, we want to get you to college and we want to get you to opportunity," said Vereen.

Students in the cohort will receive rigorous advising to chase after their goals.

Rosedagrove Gulien, 16, moved from Haiti in May of 2021 and dreams of attending military school and becoming an astronaut.

"I want to study space and know more about space, the planet and all its functions," said Gulien. "When I talked with [my advisor] she helped me a lot. She gave me papers for the military school that I can go to and also brought two men in the military who can talk with me and help me."

In Philadelphia, less than 15 percent of students who start ninth grade graduate college ten years later, according to Heights. Co-president Woods said their goal is to shift that percentage up by ten percent.

Diego Joseph, 23, is the College Access and Equity Coordinator at the Kensington Area High Schools for Heights. He graduated from Gettysburg College in May and is a product of Philadelphia Futures.

"I’m a first-generation college student. [My family and I] just came over here to this country, and there weren’t a lot of chances that I can provide for my family in a better way, so I knew that I had to take that opportunity," said Joseph who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. "The reason why I am in the College Access and Equity advising role is because I want to give back. I want to help students like myself, or maybe in different situations, who want to achieve similar goals or even bigger goals."

George Washington is one of Heights’ partner schools and hosted the unveiling of the organization’s name with a pep-rally featuring its nationally recognized cheer squad and school band.