Mastery Prep Elementary: On the eve of the 76ers’ season opener versus Boston, Tobias Harris was making an impact off of the court. The Philadelphia 76ers forward hosted a surprise “community draft,” announcing a total of one million dollars worth of investments to assist underserved communities in his new hometown of Philadelphia and across the globe. Harris unveiled his personal strategic philanthropic plan focused on literacy education, teacher support, and recruitment through global, national, and local partnerships.
Tobias Harris held a community draft today. @JBlevinsNBA was there and covered it, well, like a draft.— The Painted Lines (@ThePaintedLines) October 22, 2019
So many great educationally focused causes benefitted today. “Knowledge is power” said Harris after the draft when asked what reading has meant for him personally. https://t.co/pwSgqpHMXT pic.twitter.com/Kqpo61TONS
Serena Winters, sideline reporter for the 76ers, hosted the event. “He is such a hard worker; he is such a great leader,” said Winters as she introduced Harris to the crowded event attended by educational leaders as well as Sixers general manager Elton Brand. Brand attended the event in no official capacity, but as a show of support to one of his major recruits. He sat quietly in the back and enjoyed the presentation by one of his team’s young leaders.
Tobias Harris, Philanthropist with a Cause
“It’s a great time to give back,” said Harris in his introductory statement.
“all my life I’ve been a person who has wanted to bring about change and be impactful.”
Harris went on to talk about his lifelong love of reading and how crucial it has been in his life. “Knowledge is power,” said Harris when asked what reading has meant to him personally in his life.
Early education was a major focus on Tuesday. “In second grade my teacher was my biggest role model in life; it was someone I was with everyday,” said Harris, underscoring how important it is for kids to have qualified and talented professionals early in their life outside of the home. The Tobias Top Teachers initiative will focus on pipeline, policy, professional learning, and partnerships for teachers. He went on to say that “teachers are under a tremendous amount of pressure and they need our support.” Pennsylvania was once thought of as a fountain of good teachers for the rest of the country. The State of PA used to graduate 10,000 certified teachers per year. This past year, however, just 1,400 were certified. For context, the city of Philadelphia needs 1,000 new teachers per year.
And the focus was not just on Philadelphia schools – or even US schools. This investment looked globally as well. A statistic cited at the event was that in the developing world, 90% of classrooms will go without internet access or electricity. That creates a huge disparity in quality of education, and Harris is actively addressing those challenges.
“Many people admire the problem, far fewer are active”.
The Tobias Lit Labs
Tobias is encouraging kids to get “lit” for literacy, infusing science, technology, and education to improve youth reading proficiency scores. Making reading fun and cool starts with getting kids as quickly as possible onto reading at grade level. The stigma of a struggling reader can cause some to reject the notion of reading as uncool. This initiative works actively against that by putting a prominent athlete front and center who makes reading a huge part of his life.
Draft Pick #9: Team up Philly
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/TeamUpPhilly/
PROFILE: “Team Up Philly empowers girls living in under-served Philadelphia neighborhoods to lead healthy, confident, and successful lives through sports and enrichment programs.”
Draft Pick #8: Wyandanch High School Basketball
Social Media: N/A
Profile: This is a high school located in New York whose sporting programs were jeopardized due to a severe lack of funding. Students would be deprived of using sports as an outlet to meet friends, participate in extracurricular activities, and stay healthy due to the absence of sports programs.
Draft Pick #7: Sunbooks
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/SunBooks.org/
PROFILE: “We’re a non-profit that has developed an innovative solar powered educational tool which includes e-book and localized educational resources for children in remote locations. We aim to enhance literacy which is essential to economic development and to the well-being of communities worldwide.”
Draft Pick #6: True Love Missions
PROFILE: “True Love Missions is a mission that was put together by God, directed by God, and is led by God. He has called us on a mission… to reach the lost, the poor, the dying, the hungry, the thirsty, and those in prison. Every day is a mission. It may be right outside our door, at our jobs, on the street, or across the world. Where He leads and directs us, we will go. For the time is near. It does not matter what one looks like, where they came from, or what one believes. He has created us in His image and though we may differ, we are of one blood. We were called together for a purpose, and that is ‘through love serve one another.’ So, we serve in love and in truth.”
SUMMARY: “We bring hope for now and we bring hope of the life to come! One of the places we go to often is Haiti. We went prior to the earthquake and numerous times since. We have raised money to help build a school, a church, and we also paid for a number of homes to be built. We have paid for many children who never had the opportunity to go to school, to now go to school. We also have provided school supplies, backpacks, sneakers, shoes, socks, clothes, toothpaste, tooth brushes, soap, shampoo, lotion, food, lanterns, toys, Bibles, hats, and medication. We have sent barrel upon barrel filled with things to help improve their lives. On one of our last visits, we gave out medicine to over 900 adults and children to get rid of the worms in their bellies that could otherwise kill them.”
Draft Pick #5: Foundation for Orange County Public Schools
Social Media: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChP-_GEzDmMoxPEuW-_SCgQ
PROFILE: “The Foundation for Orange County Public Schools enlists the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations to make a difference in the success of Orange County’s teachers and students. Our programs are designed with one goal in mind – to increase student achievement.”
SUMMARY: “Established in 1987, the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools (FOCPS) serves the 8th largest public-school system in the nation and supports more than 213,000 students and 15,000 teachers in 199 schools. The Foundation’s Strategic Plan was successfully refined and expanded to carry the organization through 2022, and the areas in which investments and philanthropic support will be sought – our priorities – were formalized. The Philanthropic Strategic Plan, previous Foundation 18-month strategic plan, and traditional areas for Foundation support are incorporated into this expanded plan. The task force presented the updated plan to the full Foundation board in December 2018, where it received unanimous approval.”
Draft Pick #4: Legends Academy
PROFILE: “Legends Academy is a Kindergarten through 8th grade Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused school located on the Hope Center West Campus in the Washington Shores community of Orlando, Florida.”
Draft Pick #3: Fund for School District of Philadelphia
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/fundPHLschools/
PROFILE: “We identify, coordinate, and connect philanthropic resources—through effective public-private partnerships—to leverage investments in local public schools. We target strategic priorities that have a measurable impact on the success of students regardless of zip code, family income, or chance.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia is an independent 501(c)3 not for profit organization that serves as a fiscal intermediary between the private sector and the Philadelphia public education system. We are the only philanthropic organization that works directly with school leadership to align the investments of partners—private foundations, corporations and businesses, community organizations, and individual donors—with the strategies that will impact the success of students attending our neighborhood public schools.”
Draft Pick #2: Read by 4th – Free Library of Philadelphia
Link: Read By 4th Website
PROFILE: “Read by 4th is a citywide effort of over 90 organizations, public and private, large and small, convened and managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia, aiming to significantly increase the number of students in Philadelphia entering the 4th grade at reading level by 2020.
The largest effort of its kind in the city of Philadelphia, this initiative attempts to tackle the literacy crisis in our city. Currently, approximately two-thirds of Philadelphia students cannot read at grade level by 4th grade. On-track literacy is an important indicator of a child’s future academic and professional success, and the inability to read at grade level by the fourth grade is correlated to higher rates of dropping out of school, risky behavior, and incarceration later in life.”
No. 1: The Center for Black Educator Development
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/PHENND/
PROFILE: “The Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) is a consortium of over 30 colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia area. PHENND works to build the capacity of its member institutions to develop mutually beneficial, sustained, and democratic community-based service-learning partnerships. The consortium actively seeks to revitalize local communities and schools and foster civic responsibility among the region’s colleges and universities.
Higher educational institutions can function as permanent anchors and partners for community improvement. Moreover, it is deeply in their interests to do so; their futures are intertwined with that of their neighborhoods. PHENND provides a vehicle for coordinating and, where appropriate, combining the efforts of higher eds so that they can make a significant contribution to improving the entire Philadelphia region.”