With a focus on service and supporting the community that spans nearly 200 years, WSFS works with its nonprofit partners to build a stronger, more equitable future for all. To those ends, WSFS has partnered with the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee (DBREC), a nonprofit organization established in 2006, that collaborates closely with many of Delaware’s leading businesses to improve education and the economy in Delaware.
Together with Rodel, a statewide nonprofit focused on improving public education, DBREC’s work has benefited tens of thousands of young people – from early childhood education to preparing the next generation for college and careers – and has provided more than $36 million in support of world-class public education in Delaware.
“WSFS has been a leader in DBREC since its inception,” said Paul Herdman, President and CEO of Rodel. “Former WSFS Chairman Skip Schoenhals served as the chair of DBREC for many years, including for our statewide effort called ‘Vision 2015’ that brought together hundreds of public and private sector leaders to craft a 10-year vision for rethinking public education in the First State.”
Schoenhals’ leadership, in partnership with DBREC supporters, helped Delaware submit a plan in 2009 to the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” competition that led to the state being awarded the top score in the nation and $119 million to catalyze statewide improvements ranging from strengthening the state’s teacher pipeline to laying the groundwork for clear accountability and assessments.
“The leadership and guidance from WSFS have continued to this day through the ongoing support of the Bank, the WSFS CARES Foundation, and WSFS’ Art Bacci, who serves on DBREC’s board and steering committee,” said Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists, and Chair of DBREC.
“WSFS is proud to support DBREC, and has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants over the past 15 years, as well as worked closely with DBREC and Rodel to help improve education in the First State,” said Bacci, EVP and Chief Wealth Officer at WSFS.
DBREC has worked with Rodel to align key public and private players on its long-term vision, catalyzing ideas that can lead to systemic change and drive the policies and funding needed for those ideas to take root.
Guided by its “north star” for what it will take for every child to succeed, Student Success 2025, a statewide plan that set a vision and goals to transform the Delaware public education system to world-class by 2025, DBREC has successfully linked its visionary education roadmap to the Delaware Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda in further support of state economic development.
DBREC has been a leader on a range of other efforts focused on serving children in the highest need communities as well, from the creation of the state’s quality rating system for early learning (STARs) to critical seed funding for leading organizations working to improve public education like Teach For America.
Among the organization’s flagship efforts is its work in Delaware Pathways, a program that better prepares young people for the world of work by providing high school students the opportunity to earn upward of 15 college credits, a national certification in a career of interest, and a meaningful work-based learning experience. The Pathways effort has seen significant growth through the years, expanding from 27 students in 2016 to more than 23,000 today, which represents more than half of Delaware’s high school students.
And as Dianastasis pointed out, “The ROI on this effort has been powerful in terms of its impact on students and the resources it has brought to the table. DBREC’s initial investment of $25,000 in Pathways has leveraged well over $25 million in federal and philanthropic co-investment.”
“The Pathways program has continued to see success, and Rodel has worked closely with our partners over the last year to craft a three-year plan for a new phase,” said Herdman. “It is a bold, multi-faceted plan that will expand the work to middle school, broaden our reach to more high school students, and create new opportunities for adults in high growth sectors like IT and healthcare.”
Through its various initiatives, DBREC focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion, working to increase quality access for low-income families and students of color.
To this point, the Pathways program has also extended to the creation of the first Delaware IT Industry Council, with the primary focus of building a more inclusive tech talent pipeline, with a particular interest in expanding the pool of women and people of color in technology. The Council’s overall aim is to unite IT job seekers, businesses, and education and training institutions around a collective vision to provide greater opportunity for all across the IT sector.
“The DBREC’s mission and initiatives align closely with the key pillars of the WSFS CARES Foundation, including education and leadership development,” said Vernita Dorsey, Senior Vice President, Director of Community Strategy at WSFS. “We envision a world in which all of our community members are given an equal opportunity to succeed, and partnerships with organizations like DBREC are helping to forge forward to that brighter future.”
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