Lenfest gives to local schools

The trustee donated $400,000 through his foundation.

Two local schools—Dunbar Promise Academy and the Tanner G. Duckrey School—will receive $400,000 from a Temple trustee’s foundation during the next two years to help expand a nonprofit program at each school.

The Lenfest Foundation’s benefactor H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a Temple trustee since 2013 and an owner of the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com, made the donation in late July to fund the Middle Grades Academy Program.

Created by education nonprofit Steppingstone Scholars, the program provides college preparation opportunities to students and expands science, technology, engineering, art and math resources.

Temple will be a partner in the program, which began last year at Dunbar.

Kasey Thompson, program officer at the Lenfest Foundation, said the schools were chosen in part because of their close proximity to Temple, which will partner in implementing the program that began last year at Dunbar.

In the foundation’s closing years—the Inquirer reported in 2013 that the foundation would cease in a little more than a decade—it has refocused its efforts toward helping low-income youth in Philadelphia and expanding educational opportunities.

The foundation focuses on early learning, middle school programs and career pathway programs, which aim to prepare students for college and entering the workforce.

Thompson said Middle Grades Academy will provide courses to keep students on track to attend college, including offering algebra to eighth graders, which can give a head start for students continuing into high school.

Sarah Gallagher, director of development and communications at Steppingstone Scholars, described the program as the “college pipeline” which will offer services and support to students from fifth grade through their college years.

Thompson said she hopes this will create more bridges for the students at Dunbar and Duckrey to continue into college and to increase the percentage of youths from North Philadelphia entering Temple.

Thompson added that she hopes the program will help to demolish what she calls the “invisible wall” between the neighborhood and campus and increase the chances of attending college for North Philly students.

During the 2014-15 school year, 35 percent of Pennsylvania residents at Temple came from Philadelphia, up from 30 percent which attended during 2013-2014.

Thompson hopes this donation will be a catalyst to help kickstart these programs, and that during the next couple of years, they’ll be able to secure seed funding from other sources.

“In a new era born of the scarcity of the city, that has led us to coordinate [with other foundations],” Thompson said, adding that Lenfest has focused on partnering with other agencies to create a larger impact within local schools.

The donation comes at a time when city and state funding for the public schools has been limited. In 2013, the city notoriously closed 23 schools to erase a budget deficit of $1.35 billion.

Gallagher said further details on the program’s operation at both Duckrey and Dunbar will be clarified over the next five weeks, as Temple and Steppingstone Scholars continue discussions.

The Middle Grades Academy program is also offered at McMichael Promise Academy in Mantua in coordination with Drexel University.

Mariam Dembele can be reached at mariam.dembele@temple.edu on Twitter @MariamDembele.

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