Oscar Wang ’14 is now the executive director of Mentor for Philly (MFP), a program he started last year that recruits Philadelphia-area college students to mentor high schoolers as they prepare for post-secondary study. The program stresses whole-school involvement, building community among mentors, and helping mentees understand the full range of options available to them. Currently MFP draws mentors from Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania and works with three Philadelphia Schools: Parkway Center City, Parkway West, and Central High School.
Wang came up with the idea for the program, but he emphasizes that its development has been a collaborative process—starting with help from his friend Ben Wohl ’14.
“On a breezy summer night last August,” Wang says, “I knocked on the door of Ben’s sublet apartment at midnight and we stood on the sidewalk as I pitched the concept to him.”
Soon Wohl was a co-director of MFP alongside Wang. As they built the program, they received support from Haverford’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and 8th Dimension Office of Community Service, Bryn Mawr’s Civic Engagement Office, the Bi-Co Education program, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writer’s House, and the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps.
MFP has developed during a difficult fiscal time for the the School District of Philadelphia, which has laid off hundreds of college counselors and other staff, leaving schools with minimal personnel. However, Wang emphasizes that the program is not meant to serve as a replacement for the lost positions. He believes that every school requires an adequate number of professional counselors to help students—especially on psychological issues. MFP serves as a supplement to existing structures within schools, and it is meant to benefit students regardless of economic circumstances.
Last year, mentors worked with 70 high school seniors on more than 438 post-secondary applications. During the spring, mentors helped facilitate financial aid workshops for seniors and prepared juniors for their applications next year. In a survey of mentees, 97% of them said they would recommend MFP to their peers.
“I am excited to make this my full-time daily work,” says Wang, a political science major with a minor in educational studies. “Being able to serve the city of Philadelphia and continue to be connected to my alma mater is something I am extraordinarily blessed and excited to do.”
—Sam Fox ’14
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-Haverford plans of members of the Class of 2014.