Philadelphia Eagles News

These women are creating a new world for Philadelphia's youth

Renata Cobbs-Fletcher and Sylvia Watts McKinney
Renata Cobbs-Fletcher and Sylvia Watts McKinney

The Eagles' continued dedication to pursuing work off the field relies heavily on collaborations with community partners. These partners play a massive role in how the organization decides how to best direct its efforts and resources.

Many of these nonprofit organizations couldn't function without the relentless work of their leaders. Northern Children Services and Summer Search are led by Renata Cobbs-Fletcher (left in the photo above) and Sylvia Watts McKinney – two women creating a new world for the Philadelphia youth to live and thrive.

"I think the way zip codes are defined can dictate your pathway towards a journey. If you are constantly told because of your zip code that you will become 'X,' you will believe that," says Watts McKinney, Executive Director at Summer Search Philadelphia.

Summer Search maintains a commitment to the youth it serves through a partnership that includes one-to-one mentoring; fully funded summer experiences following their sophomore and junior years of high school; as well as post-secondary advising, guidance, and coaching; and career networking support.

McKinney believes that talent is missed when youth are behind the start line simply because of their zip code.

"We can dispel those myths and as a result of that, we can help make a lot of change in the world for all the right reasons," she said.

Understanding the societal gaps that hold kids back from achieving their dreams, Summer Search is committed to helping all young people find their purpose.

"I am convinced that if it hadn't been for mentors throughout my life, I would not be where I am today and that is filled with purpose," Watts McKinney said. "It always came back to what was that main purpose and that was not to be the voice of folks who are 'voiceless,' but to help those persons who wanted to make a difference in our lives, to go for it with a dream, and to have that spirit to do it, to be motivated, and to be inspiring."

McKinney moved to Philadelphia when she was approached by a Summer Search recruiter. After reading a book written by its founder Linda Mornell, McKinney said, "It all made sense to me that here I can make that profound difference that I fundamentally believe in my heart is the right thing to do."

And the rest is history.

For Cobbs-Fletcher, President and CEO of Northern Children's Services, her passion for children is where it all began. She performed years of volunteer work centered on children before realizing she could build a career through that passion.

Now at the helm of Northern Children's Services, Cobbs-Fletcher draws on her years of experience to fuel the powerful work this organization provides.

"We can't hope to improve outcomes for children without really seeking to embrace holistically the whole family as well," Cobbs-Fletcher commented.

Northern Children's Services works to stabilize households so that children and youth can develop in healthy environments, which in turn will create stronger communities.

"I've learned a lot about resilience and optimism – a reminder of all the amazing qualities we all have internally," Cobbs-Fletcher said. "Looking at some of the things that our young people and families have faced, just incredibly difficult circumstances, but they are resilient. With support, hopefully, we're helping them move through those things."

Moving through difficulty is an emphasis at Northern Children's Services. Cobbs-Fletcher says it's difficult to understand the weight and significance of what it takes to go through something, and the organization's staff really tries to lend themselves to helping youth and their families "get through the through."

For both women, they stand with a responsibility that stretches even further than their organization's mission or the people they serve – they stand for the women of the future so that they too can be CEOs, founders, executive directors, presidents, and more.

"Ambition is great," Cobbs-Fletcher said. "You can express that ambition by doing your best work, putting your whole self into the role that you're doing now."

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