Learning how to cope with the distractions of poverty and violence is crucial to succeeding in a place like Chester, Pa., where shootings and robberies are virtually a daily occurrence.
As a senior at Chester High School, Devvyn Holloway was committed to succeeding in school and in life. In part because of the attention he received from the Blueprints Youth Empowerment program, he learned how to keep his head down and stay focused on graduating high school and going to college. The Foundation for Delaware County wrapped up the program in 2017.
Blueprints was a year-round youth development program that provided a range of academic, cultural and social services to low-income students in the Chester Upland School District. Students selected for the program participated throughout their high school years in after-school programs. They met three days a week during the academic year, twice-a-month on Saturdays, three days a week in a July summer camp and participated in a summer work experience. Program participants were expected to complete an average of 500 hours in Blueprints programs and receive a stipend for their time.
“It was a really good program with a lot of benefits,” Holloway says. “You learned, gained friends and made new relationships. You picked up life lessons, you were able to make better decisions and you were able to stay out of the negativity.”
Through Blueprints, Holloway attended an African American cultural enrichment program, wrote poetry and participated in drumming sessions, all at Swarthmore College. He visited a museum in New York City, took yoga, saw a theater production of “The Lion King” in Philadelphia, worked at a local Boys and Girls Club, attended college admissions test preparation sessions and received assistance in filling out college applications.
Holloway says Blueprints was especially important for students in his school.
“They were reaching out because generations are getting lost in the streets and fighting and killing,” he says. “They’re getting into violence and being in the wrong place at the wrong time because they have nothing to do – they’re so bored that they get caught up in dumb things.”
Blueprints had an impressive record of results. At the end of its 10th year and third funding cycle, 100 percent of the 35-40 students in the last cohort graduated high school and were college bound.
Holloway is one of those success stories. He now attends the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where he is a double major in music ministry and theology, and minors in media engineering, which includes production, sound effects and mixing. His focus on music has been fueled by his participation in several Gospel ensembles, including his own family’s ensemble.
When asked how Blueprints affected him most, Holloway says it taught him to be humble.
“By humble, I mean being patient, being smarter with things, making more intellectual decisions,” he explains. “Sometimes you may have to be humble enough just to be quiet and know when not to say something, even when you know you are right and someone else is wrong.”
In the months to come, the foundation will be looking nationwide to see if there are similar programs that could be funded in the future to benefit Delaware County students like Holloway.