The Philadelphia School District—the eighth largest district in the country—faces some particular challenges, but one of the biggest is an obstacle familiar to districts of all sizes: sporadic funding.
As chief of strategic partnerships for Philadelphia schools, Stacy Holland spent the past year working to facilitate community and organizational partnerships that bring in additional program services and create opportunities for students. Case in point: When Ryan Howard, Phillies first-baseman, and his wife, Krystal, heard of the challenges within the district, they contacted the Office of Strategic Partnerships. The Howards wanted to ensure that local kids were reading at least 20 minutes a day. Through collaboration with teachers, students logged their minutes over the course of a year—1,535,960 minutes, to be exact—and in return, the Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation funded a project at the discretion of the principal and the board—a “missing piece” of the learning puzzle for the school. The end result was the Ryan Howard Reading Room at Vare Elementary, a spot fitted with iPads, desktop computers and books.
During her tenure with the district, Holland, a 1992 TCNJ graduate, has helped create partnerships with local restaurateurs, such as the Starr Restaurant organization, to bring in money and resources, and with College Possible, a college prep program that brought one-on-one counseling to high schoolers in September.
Last year, Holland received a Champions of Change Award from the White House, which recognized her work as the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network, an organization she cofounded in 1999 to organize the city’s resources that assisted thousands of youth with obtaining summer and year-round employment opportunities.
This fall, Holland, a former chairperson of the college’s Board of Trustees, launched the next phase of her career when she became the executive director of the LenFest Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to increasing educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
White House awards aside, work in education can sometimes be thankless, she says. But she won’t give it up. She subscribes to a bit of that “it takes a village” mentality. When caring adults outside of families take notice of struggling children and help fight battles on their behalf, it’s “life-altering” for both the student and the adult, says Holland. “When you help a child discover his or her full potential,” she says, “there’s nothing more addictive than that.”