With a strong desire to help and support youth in Philadelphia, Germantown Academy senior Juan Adames '20 started his own non-profit organization called Leaders of Tomorrow in 2019.
Adames said that Leaders of Tomorrow’s mission statement “is to educate the youth with knowledge you often wouldn’t learn in a school setting.”
“As near peer mentors, we often have events to help out the community such as food drives, toy drives, or simply just giving love to the youth," said Adames. “We hope that with everyone’s positive input we will be able grow to make our upcoming generation our well-prepared leaders of tomorrow!”
Adames is joined in his efforts by fellow senior Zach Anderson '20, who is helping out with the youth outreach portion of Leaders of Tomorrow’s mission, and by Dean Millard '21 and Rahim Dow-Johnson '22, who have served as volunteers.
“Most of the work we do are mentoring kids ages ten to eighteen in the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood,” said Adames. “Most kids don't have the same opportunities that Zach and I have, so we help guide them through obstacles they come across, such as learning how to apply for college, learning how to buy and trade stocks, applying for a job, and learning how to make the right decision in tough situations.”
Outside of mentoring, Leaders of Tomorrow hosts events to bring awareness to certain issues or to help families in need. In August, Adames’ group hosted a “Stop the Violence Day” where they had games, prizes, and guest speakers, including community leaders like Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, Pennsylvania State Representative Jared Solomon, and members of the Philadelphia Police 2nd District. In November, the organization raised over $1,000 to buy food to make for the Woodstock Family Center in Philadelphia.
“They house homeless single mothers and fathers with two or more children,” explained Adames. “That day we fed over 200 families and paid for a game truck to come, because most of those kids never touched a remote controller to a game console ever!”
On April 16, Leaders of Tomorrow helped Representative Solomon hand out meals to local residents in Northeast Philadelphia.
“In the times we are facing, most of these families can't afford a meal on a day to day basis,” said Adames. “It was a great experience getting to help people out.”
They’re also creating care packages made up of essential items to deliver to 20 families who are in need.
“This is in collaboration with Representative Solomon,” said Adames.
“We also help mentor teenagers in our community and show them that there is a better life other than Philadelphia,” added Adames. “For example, we took a group of our teenagers downtown to City Hall to sit in on a City Council meeting on topics involving our community. Afterward we were able to meet councilmen and women as well as go into their offices to see how they operate. We’re just introducing them to a world that they never thought of.”
Like Adames, Anderson is also really excited and eager to have a positive impact on Philadelphia area youth.
“I use my voice as a platform to motivate and encourage the youth that we are here for them and want to do our best to make our community a better place,” said Anderson. “It has been quite a journey so far. When Juan asked me to be a part of something special last summer I felt extremely honored. I love giving back and it reminds me how thankful I am to simply be alive and healthy. Because of Leaders of Tomorrow, I have become a stronger leader, a more confident individual, and a fearless helper. We have had two very successful community events since the start of the school year and have planned so many more exciting events. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has put everything on hold, but this is only motivating us more to carry out our work. Right now, social media has been our biggest tool of communication to encourage the Philadelphia community that we are still here and ready to help as much as we can. Despite the circumstances, I don’t see Leaders of Tomorrow going away any time soon. We are on the rise!"
Adames said he was inspired to create Leaders of Tomorrow because of his dad.
“Growing up, he always helped out my friends who didn't have the same resources I did,” said Adames. “Rather it was buying them food or being the father that some of them didn't have. My father was always there for them. And what made me deeply invest myself into Leaders of Tomorrow was seeing the number of children and teenagers lose their lives to gun violence. I knew there was a way for them to have a safe space to interact with friends as well as have an opportunity to be heard and have someone there to help guide them through certain situations and through life skills.”