PHILADELPHIA – On January 29, the Young Quakers Community Athletics program was officially launched, as the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships and Penn Athletics unveiled the mentoring program which pairs elementary school students from West Philadelphia with varsity student-athletes at Penn.
The program began in 2012 with the men’s lacrosse team at Penn partnering with students in grades 4-6 at Comegys Elementary School. Over the past two years, the women’s lacrosse team as well as the track and field teams at Penn have also joined the initiative.
Currently, students at Comegys, Huey Community School, and Lea Community School are involved in the program, with plans to add more area schools and Penn Athletics programs in the future.
“There’s a learning module every time these guys come here. My joy is only exceeded by my expectations of what this program can be,” University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann said.
The Young Quakers Community Athletics (YQCA) partnership allows for students in West Philadelphia to spend time on Penn’s campus at its athletic facilities, working 1-on-1 with their mentors in academics and athletics.
Penn Athletics provides staff, coaches, uniforms, equipment and transportation to YQCA participants at no charge. The Netter Center’s participation in the program allows students to benefit from the Netter Center’s comprehensive University-Assisted Community Schools programming which brings academic, human and material resources from Penn to the schools during the school day, after school, and in the summer.
“Life is about the moments we experience and the people we experience them with,” junior runner Gabrielle Cuccia said. “I’m just in love with this program. I really want them to realize their potential too. If we just give them the tools, it’s amazing what they can accomplish with their dreams.”
The YQCA program has allowed the student-athletes at Penn to engage in the West Philadelphia community.
“We really want to educate our students to pay it forward,” Gutmann said. “We want all these students to be really ambitious and come to places like Penn.”
Mike Murphy, men’s lacrosse head coach at Penn, sees how the program has its rewards for both sides.
“It’s a lot of fun and our players enjoy it, it’s mutually beneficial,” he said. “They get to represent the University the right way — a university that’s giving them a huge amount — and they get to give back to a sport that's given them a great deal.”
Chuck Leitner, a founding donor to the Young Quakers and chairman of the Board of Overseers for Penn Athletics, pledged continued support of the program, calling the event the launch of “Young Quakers 2.0” and saying that everyone involved will “do everything in the realm of our power to do everything to really work together to make a difference.”
The event concluded with members of the YQCA program heading to Franklin Field to demonstrate how the on-field sessions – which focus on learning the fundamentals of the sports involved as well as teamwork and communication skills needed to succeed in athletics – operate during the program sessions.