For the last 16 years, Joan Mazzotti has been at the helm of Philadelphia Futures. Under her direction, the nonprofit’s staff has doubled, its budget has nearly tripled, and more than 500 students have graduated from high school and attended college, thanks to the organization’s mentoring and assistance. Now Mazzotti is stepping down.
“After much consideration, I have concluded that Philadelphia Futures is approaching the point at which new leadership will have an important, positive impact,” Mazzotti said.
She plans to leave the position on Jan. 8 or after a successor has been found. Looking back at her time with the organization, she says it’s about “the incredible team of people who work here that I’ve had the privilege to work with.”
Mazzotti, a Long Island, N.Y., native, graduated from Rider University before earning her law degree at Villanova University. After working 23 years as legal counsel for the food and support services division at Aramark, Mazzotti joined Philadelphia Futures as its executive director, taking over direction of the college access and success program.
“I wanted to do something where I was living out my personal values every day,” Mazzotti said.
Within her first year, she implemented the organization’s first college partnership – with Gettysburg College. Philadelphia Futures now has nine partner colleges, which have awarded students more than $31 million in institutional aid.
Philadelphia Futures places great emphasis on tracking data for its student programs. In 2006, Mazzotti had this data analyzed by gender and found that young men were graduating from high school at a much lower rate than young women. In response, Philadelphia Futures created the Young Men’s Initiative, and the impact is visible, with graduation rates for the organization’s young men rising from 47 percent to 65 percent.
In 2011, Mazzotti oversaw the organization’s merger with the nonprofit White-Williams Scholars, which allowed Philadelphia Futures to decrease its overhead and expand its reach and programming.
Mazzotti and her husband, Michael Kelly, have sponsored and mentored students. One of her husband’s mentees, Ralph, has become a part of their family, with Mazzotti calling Ralph their “quasi-adopted son.”
As for the family’s next steps, Mazzotti and her husband said they hope to expand their philanthropy.
“I think [education equity] will always be at the core of what I do, because in many ways I believe that education is the great equalizer,” she said.