Where will Philadelphia be in 2040? Will it be a major player on the world stage? Will it be a city leading change and progress?
It could be—if the right people are leading us.
That was the theme of last night’s Germination Project gala, the annual extravaganza that celebrated a new class of teenagers who—the proposition is—will be among the leaders Philadelphia needs to make us a great city of the future. The 18 high school juniors—primarily drawn from Main Line private schools—bring the total number of GP fellows to 55.
The event Thursday night also honored philanthropist Richard Vague, for endowing the professorship of Penn cancer researcher Carl June.
Ajay Raju, philanthropist and chairman/CEO of Dilworth Paxson, LLP, launched Germination Project in 2015 with a vision both idealistic and pragmatic. There will always be titans in Philly—lawyers, bankers, technologists, educators, business people, politicians. And they will always be in a position to make this city what it is. Raju hopes to shape those titans, from a young age, into a network of civic-minded individuals passionate about making Philadelphia a world class city for everyone in it.
“We’re longterm thinkers,” says Raju, The Citizen’s co-founder. “We’re not even talking about 10 years; we’re looking at two decades on. Few are going to lead many: 40 cities will lead the world. Are we going to be one of those or aren’t we?”
This year’s GP fellows spent two weeks at Penn Medicine, immersed in the science and business of the research behemoth. Like their predecessors, they will spend the year being exposed to business, philanthropic and civic arenas, including taking a trip to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, meeting with arts and business leaders in town, and volunteering with the American Heart Association on work they do bringing CPR training and other services to inner city neighborhoods.
This year, Raju has charged his new fellows with stepping up as teen leaders on a more visible scale, as well. They are in the process of creating a platform for what he calls “Germination Papers,” a series of articles and essays written by the fellows about how to solve the problems important to teenagers, like school quality or gun violence. “After the Parkland shooting, I asked them, ‘Why didn’t you issue a position paper?’” Raju says. “‘You have a voice. You’re supposed to be the best and the brightest, so start acting like it.’”
The papers—and the thinking behind them—will lead to a youth ideas festival that Raju is calling Futures Festival, sometime next year.
“Look at the things that didn’t exist 18 years ago, and think about the people who made those happen,” Raju says. “The challenge to these kids is, instead of making one more app that allows you to get your food without leaving your couch, are you going to solve real world problems? Someone is thinking about those problems. Is it going to be you?”
Photo via Germination Project