The Germination Project Unveils Philadelphia's Next Generation of Leaders

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15 Area High School Students Participate in Long Term Civic Leadership Program Dedicated to the Greater Development of Philadelphia

A 50-year investment in Philadelphia’s future launched in Center City last week, and 15 high school students were poised to take the spotlight. The Germination Project, an organization focused on creating a self-sustaining and perpetuating ecosystem for Philadelphia’s next generation of leaders, introduced its inaugural Student Fellow Class of 2015 at the historical Union League. With the keynote address from Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown and special guests taking the stage to announce the “picks,” the Gala Benefit had all the action and excitement of a professional sports draft.

The program consists of 15 rising juniors representing 10 Philadelphia-area high schools. Hundreds of students were considered, and those chosen went through a rigorous process before being selected by a committee made up of CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, and other business executives. The Fellows were introduced by numerous dignitaries, including U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health President and CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko. Both were Gala Chairs, along with U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey and Gabriel Investments Managing Partner Richard Vague.

Starting with this first class of Student Fellows, the Germination Project seeks to catalyze ambitious young men and women, brought together by their talent, drive, and commitment, to put their gifts into service for the benefit of our city. A key component of the program’s success: current leaders in our region who will not simply provide insight and advice, but hands-on experience – these leaders will work alongside the Fellows in developing and delivering initiatives that will improve the quality of life and economic outlook for the entire Philadelphia region.

First stop for the Fellows: the Summer Leadership Boot Camp, a two-week program designed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Social Impact Initiative. The Boot Camp will use a two-fold approach of leadership development and social entrepreneurial skills development. Under the guidance and direction of experienced professors and guest lecturers, each Fellow will undertake a range of experiential learning opportunities designed to develop the skills necessary to thrive as leaders in our region.

Katherine Klein, Vice Dean, Wharton Social Impact Initiative comments, “Our goal for the Boot Camp is to inform and inspire the Student Fellows, so that they begin their Germination Project experience with both an understanding of how they can create positive change in Philadelphia and a set of practical tools and approaches that they can apply.”

After completing Boot Camp, the Fellows will set out to deliver on a key part of The Germination Project’s mission: exchanging the lifetime’s worth of opportunities the program ultimately will bestow upon them, for a promise to pay those opportunities forward.

By their side will be another leading partner of the program, Jefferson Health. Fellows will work with volunteer doctors, nurses, and other Jefferson medical professionals, as well as with community liaisons, and will engage directly with the Jefferson team on a community outreach program that will focus on eliminating health disparities.

“Jefferson Health will be honored to have these 15 young leaders and future Germination Project Fellows in the trenches with us as our team immerses itself into communities that are off the grid in regards to health care,” says Jefferson’s Steve Klasko. “Our goal is to extract important data from these communities and then create ongoing and lasting programs that improve the physical health of our region. 50 years from now, we want to see neighborhoods literally transformed by our efforts and a regional population with a much higher percentage of residents who are healthcare literate.”

Dilworth Paxson LLP Executive Chairman and CEO Ajay Raju, who established the Germination Project through an endowment from his philanthropic foundation, envisions the program’s role as restoring Philadelphia to regional, national, and global prominence. “This city has the potential to once again shine as brightly and thrive as mightily as it did when it became the birthplace of the American idea,” says Raju. “Realizing that potential depends on creating indelible connections between our leaders of today and those who will take up the charge tomorrow and into the years ahead. In that spirit, the Germination Project’s objective is to bring together those leaders from across generations to serve, to inspire, and to lead Philadelphia back to greatness.”

The 2015 Student Fellow Class of The Germination Project:
Alexa Bartels, The Baldwin School
Leith Mohammad, Bodine High School
Aquil Dantzler, Boys’ Latin Charter School
Trang Lam, Central High School
Thomas Van Dean, Central High School
Monica Volodarsky, Central High School
Jermaine Rhoden, The Episcopal Academy
Caleb Clothier, The Haverford School
DeanManko, The Haverford School
Cal Williams, The Haverford School
Sabine Ostinvil, Julia R. Masterman School
GaryWilliams, Julia R. Masterman School
Keisha Loko, SS. Neumann & Goretti Catholic High School
Marshae Batchelor, Parkway Center City
Natalie Fred, Swenson Arts & Technology High School

The growing list of Germination Project Partners includes:
Achieve Now
AL DÍA News Media
American Heart Association
Berkadia Commercial Mortgage
BNY MellonWealth Management
Brownstein Group
Click Click Draw
Cozen O’Connor
Devyn Gehret
Dilworth Paxson LLP
Diversified Community Services
Hersha Hospitality
Janine Yass
Jones Lang LaSalle
Karlani Capital
Keystone State Boychoir
Kimmel Center
Mole Street
Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia Magazine
TD Bank
The Philadelphia Orchestra
The Pamela& Ajay Raju Foundation
Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health
Union League
Wharton Social Impact Initiative
World Affairs Council

For more information about the mission and civil engagement initiatives of The Germination Project, visit

View the official video of The Germination Project at

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About the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation
The Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation is committed to re-establishing Philadelphia as a global force in policy, commerce and culture. With its foundational support of strategically selected philanthropic initiatives, the Raju Foundation employs a unique interdisciplinary approach to the greater development of Philadelphia and the surrounding region.

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Parinda Patel
since: 01/2015
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