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The Citizen Updates: Philadelphia’s Other Draft

On the night of the NFL draft, Germination Project introduced the city to its new all stars

Last night—while the Eagles were drafting Carson Wentz—a crowd of over 500 Philadelphians at the storied Union League came together to celebrate a totally different sort of draft: 20 high school sophomores chosen as the second class of Germination Project fellows. With fanfare usually reserved for professional athletes, each student was introduced to great applause by a prominent Philadelphian—including Opera Philadelphia’s David Devan; CBS News Director Margaret Cronan; and Citizen editor Larry Platt—and received a basketball jersey with their name on it. The message was deliberate: These first round students were going to make Philadelphia a championship city, in every way.

Actual Eagle Connor Barwin with soloist Bobby Hill
Actual Eagle Connor Barwin with soloist Bobby Hill

“Yes, Mr. Wentz will have a great impact on Philadelphia,” Raju said later. “But these 20 kids will have a greater impact, for generations.”

With their induction, the 20 students joined 14 from last year in forging a civic engagement deal with Raju: He will introduce them to cultural, academic, scientific and artistic power here and elsewhere, and they will use their talents and relationships to shape Philadelphia into a world-class city, both now and into adulthood.

The event last night provided a glimpse into Germination’s method: The students came outfitted in suits and dresses provided by Boyd’s; it took place at the Union League, where Raju is a member, before wealthy and influential Philadelphians. The program (produced by Devan and Fringe Festival’s Nick Stuccio) included performances by the KeyStone Boys’ Choir, Opera Philadelphia, rapper Spank Rock, the horn section of Red40 and Pope Francis serenader Bobby Hill. It honored doctors Jean Bennett and Albert Maguire, Penn eye researchers who have successfully used gene therapy to improve vision in blind patients. And it introduced to the crowd Germination Project’s latest proposal: Turning Philadelphia’s 42,363 empty lots into urban gardens, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the city’s food deserts.

A short video describes the project:

This year’s Germination Fellows are:

  • Ashish Abraham, Central High School
  • James Ciardullo, Julia R. Masterman School
  • Scott Copit, Episcopal Academy
  • Grace Del Vecchio, Central
  • Will Drake, The Shipley School
  • John Halcovich, Episcopal
  • Karin Hananel, Central
  • William Henderson, The Haverford School
  • Jessica Hobbs Pifer, Central
  • Amy Le, Central
  • Joseph Mastrobuoni, Neumann-Goretti
  • Anna Nguyen, Masterman
  • Naomi Peppers, Swenson Arts
  • Clara Pritchett, Masterman
  • Akash Shah, Council Rock North
  • Mahmud Springs, Boy’s Latin
  • Madelyn Strohm, Central
  • Matthew Tucker, Haverford
  • Samuel Turner, Haverford
  • Lauren Wang, The Baldwin School

Photo Header: The Germination Project

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