We’ve all heard the refrain that schools are broken, that Philly education is in need of an overhaul. And it’s true that our schools are struggling to meet the needs of students who live in a city with a seemingly immovable 24 percent poverty rate, raging gun violence, a horrific opioid epidemic, a shortage of mental health resources, not to mention pervasive systemic racism.
But for all of the bleak news, there are people and groups dedicated to lifting up our students, our educators, and our communities. Volunteers and employees alike who are determined to help the next generation of Philadelphians with literacy, tech skills, writing, civics, music, art, and more. We encourage you to support whatever local organizations speak to your educational priorities, from your local school’s friends-of group to your library, house of worship, youth sports programs, rec center, and more. Below, a list of some of the most impactful local organizations doing the work; we hope it helps inspire your commitment to making a meaningful difference.
Big Picture Learning
Operating in 150 schools across the country, including two in Philadelphia, Big Picture Learning promotes an innovative learning model that focuses on small learning groups, close relationships between students and instructors, and real-world education through internships. Donate here.
Coded by Kids
It’s no secret that racially and socioeconomically underprivileged groups are underrepresented in the tech industry. Coded by Kids fights this disparity by teaching disadvantaged kids skills in coding, computer science, and entrepreneurship throughout a multi-year program. Donate here.
Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit that promotes the benefits of reading to young children on a daily basis and engaging in other language-rich activities. They reach 4.5 million children across the country through routine check-ups, and a network of pediatric professionals to offer families with the knowledge and tools they need to make reading a daily habit. Donate here.
BioEYES’ objective is to instill a love of science in kids by allowing them to study life science through real-world applications and a hands-on approach to learning. By providing instructors with the knowledge, materials, and support they need to conduct and build their own curricula, they want to increase informal scientific education experiences beyond classroom experiments. Donate here.
Children’s Literacy Initiative
Children’s Literacy Initiative is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that works with teachers in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to improve early literacy education so that children become strong readers, writers, and thinkers. Their mission is to close the literacy performance gap between underprivileged and privileged students. Donate here.
Congreso de Latinos Unidos
Congreso works to transform the lives of individuals and families in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Philadelphia by moving them up the economic ladder and ultimately out of poverty. It focuses on education and employment, simultaneously providing supportive services in health, housing, and parenting necessary to guarantee successful outcomes. Donate here.
EducationWorks re-engages disengaged young adults in education and career readiness throughout Greater Philadelphia. They provide over 12,000 kids with the tools they need to succeed in school and in life by focusing on themes such as reading, science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, and social emotional learning. Donate here.
Interactive Constitution: Classroom Edition (National Constitution Center)
Since its launch in 2015, this nonpartisan tool has allowed learners of all ages to engage with the text of the Constitution, discover how experts agree and disagree about its history and meaning, and explore arguments on all sides of the constitutional debates at the center of American life. Donate here.
Lil Filmmakers Inc.’s purpose is to prepare young underprivileged artists for careers in the arts and media sector by teaching them how to use media and the arts to overcome societal and personal limitations. Donate here.
Think clearly and write with clarity has served as Mighty Writer’s elevator pitch and mission statement since their launch in 2009. Not everyone thinks clearly, and even fewer people express themselves with clarity. But for those who nail both—clarity of thought and expression—a lifetime of Mightiness is there for the taking. Donate here.
Musicopia is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving school music programs in the Greater Philadelphia area, ensuring that all children in underserved schools have access to music education. Donate here.
Philabundance BackPack program
BackPack, a Philabundance program, provides free, healthy, and easy-to-prepare supplemental meals for families with children at select member agency sites. Philabundance is teaming with Kids Against Hunger Philadelphia to include four shelf-stable meal packs in each BackPack this year. Each meal pack provides six prepared servings, for a total of 24 servings. Donate here. | List of BackPack distribution sites
Philadelphia Children’s Foundation
Philadelphia Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that helps Philadelphia public schools by providing internet-ready computers in classrooms and public spaces. They also assist in the purchase of books for school libraries, the provision of computers to low-income families who do not have them, and the teaching of 3D printing and computer literacy workshops. Donate here.
Philadelphia School Partnership
Philadelphia School Partnership’s purpose is to improve results for low-income students and to meet family demand by increasing access to excellent schools. They utilize their investments in three major ways: investing in great schools, developing skilled urban educators, and empowering families. Donate here.
Philadelphia Youth Network
The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) provides youth and young adults with educational and job opportunities. They develop systemic solutions to close gaps in youth-serving institutions, train youth-serving organizations to deliver programs that promote academic and career preparedness, and engage employers and system leaders to guarantee that today’s youth are prepared to enter the workforce. Donate here.
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
Public Citizens for Children and Youth works to improve the lives of our region’s children by developing initiatives and advocating for quality health care, child care, public education and family stability. In Philadelphia, PCCY has led efforts to support early childhood education, including a campaign for universal pre-K. Donate here.
Reading Recycled aims to improve children’s access to reading through three main programs: Sidewalk Libraries, which staff and community members keep stocked with books for kids to borrow; the Book Bank, from which educators receive up to 375 books per year for a $25 annual membership fee; and Community Corner, which helps local community organizations add literacy elements into their existing programs. Donate here.
Spells Writing Lab
Spells Writing Lab believes that literacy is a cornerstone for future success, and that personalized attention and unconventional learning opportunities can inspire students to greater triumphs, both in the classroom and in life. Donate here.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is a 501(c)3 non-profit that acts as a fiscal middleman between the private sector and the Philadelphia public school system. They discover, organize, and connect philanthropic resources to drive investments in local public schools through effective public-private partnerships. Donate here.
The Philadelphia Education Fund
By offering resources and skills that pave the way for college and professional success, the Philadelphia Education Fund ensures that all students have equal access to opportunities. All young people in Philadelphia should have the skills and opportunities to excel in college and in their careers, according to their vision. Donate here.
Urban Affairs Coalition
The Urban Affairs Coalition is home to more than 80 member nonprofits in the Greater Philadelphia area, which UAC supports through fiscal sponsorship, shared services, program development, and capacity building. Donate here.