PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia and nonprofit organization Action Not Words today announced that the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania has been selected as the program partner for Project Elevate, an entrepreneurial program in Philadelphia high schools developed by Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, the two men arrested at a Center City coffee shop in the spring of 2018.

Project Elevate seeks to build wealth in underserved communities through education and opportunity. The Netter Center’s “Bridges 2 Wealth” program will take the lead in implementing Project Elevate, including educational activities focused on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. As with all Netter Center programs, Project Elevate participants will engage in a range of University-Assisted Community School programs and resources.

The City of Philadelphia committed $200,000 to launch Project Elevate as part of its settlement with Nelson and Robinson. The two men founded Action Not Words to develop the program, bringing experiential educational programming to underserved students. Project Elevate is designed to broaden students’ perspectives and equip them with tools, resources, and access needed to reach their personal goals and make an impact on their communities.

“Project Elevate serves as a foundation that will help build generational wealth for students, families, and school communities through financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs that offer opportunities to invest and develop business ideas,” said Donte Robinson. “We’re excited and proud that, through this program, youth today can realize the ability to generate wealth for themselves and their communities,” added Rashon Nelson.

The pilot program, centered around customized experiential learning regarding financial literacy and entrepreneurship, is open to students at Robeson High School and Bartram High School this year. Students can engage in social venture projects that speak to their interests while building a strong base of usable skills.

“Philadelphia’s future is innately linked to people who can create, and thanks to Project Elevate and Action Not Words, students in our city will gain critical, life-building skills they need to become creators—of jobs and opportunity in their communities,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “I am proud of what Donte and Rashon have accomplished with this program that will positively impact our communities for years to come.”

Building on standards-based curricula, Project Elevate offers students opportunities for off-campus trips to universities, businesses, and community organizations. The program offers students opportunities in entrepreneurship and small business development, including “shark tank” competitions, seed funding, and a small business incubator program at the University of Pennsylvania. Project Elevate also promotes student personal development and self-branding, using social media as a vehicle for personal brand development.

“Penn is very proud to partner in launching this invaluable initiative,” said Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett. “It speaks directly to one of our core values: advancing access to education, especially across our Philadelphia community. The Netter Center will be an ideal partner in developing this mission, drawing on more than 25 years of expertise in bringing together Penn and Philadelphia.”

Each school offers free financial empowerment and wealth building opportunities for parents, families, and community members, giving Project Elevate an inter-generational impact. The program increases parental engagement and builds community through monthly meetings that create a network of supports.

“It is amazing how, in such a short time, Project Elevate has significantly changed the trajectory of participating students,” said Richard Gordon, Robeson High School Principal. Bartram High School Principal Brian Johnson added, “We are inspired by Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson’s commitment to the Bartram community, and we are delighted to be part of the Project Elevate program.”

Project Elevate also includes weekly classroom instruction for two cohorts of students per school, as well as weekly mentoring sessions with students from the University of Pennsylvania. The senior cohort will participate in field trips to local small businesses and resources, including a visit to the Fashion Business Incubator at Macy’s. Sophomore and junior students will engage with guest speakers with expertise in business development.