Philadelphia has been fortunate to see an increase in its high school graduation rate. The Lenfest Foundation focuses on continuing that trend, until all students—especially those from economically challenged backgrounds—reach graduation day and are able to pursue the career of their choice. 

Research is clear: ninth grade is a make-or-break year. More students fail ninth grade than any other grade in high school, and a disproportionate number of those who are held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out.

To understand how students reach the point of dropping out, it’s essential to focus on the middle school years. This is where disengagement begins. Studies show that students struggling in sixth through eighth grades are particularly at risk for dropping out.

More programs are being offered during the school day than ever before—but what about programs out of school? There is no system for citywide coordination of services and professional development, and programs face limited funding. We must place more emphasis on this crucial time in a student’s journey.

We partner with projects fostering a positive transition from middle school to high school.


Our Goal

The Lenfest Foundation seeks to provide financial support to organizations that are working to increase the number of middle school students connected to high-quality learning experiences that provide career exposure, strengthen social and emotional health, and build twenty-first-century skills.

To that end, the foundation seeks to support projects that aim to:

  • Maintain or increase the number of middle school youth engaged in meaningful activities
  • Increase the capacity of practitioners in the area of youth development
  • Facilitate the successful transition of youth from middle school to high school

Specifically, the foundation is excited to support out-of-school time programs that focus on:

  • Career exposure
  • Twenty-first-century skill development
  • Engagement (old-fashioned fun)
  • Social and emotional learning

Programs may be during the academic year, summer, or year-round. Programs must demonstrate a strong design that utilizes youth development practices.

Details about the application process are available here.



Photo: After School Activities Partnership (ASAP)