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Raequan has an entrepreneurial spirit. Matthew and Katherine, then law and graduate social work students, respectively, easily got that sense, along with YSRP’s staff, the first time they met Raequan in early 2016. They met Raequan when he was just 17 years old and being held at an adult jail in Philadelphia. Raequan spent a total of 18 months in adult jail before coming home.

Matthew, Katherine, and YSRP staff visited Raequan regularly throughout his incarceration. In partnership with Raequan and his mother, they prepared for his homecoming, surfacing Raequan’s interests and identifying goals he wanted to pursue when he came home. Most especially, Raequan was interested in participating in job training programs that would allow him to pursue higher education.

In August 2017, as Raequan was about to leave jail and move back home to his mother’s apartment, he hit a major roadblock.

Raequan’s mother lives in public housing, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) was adamant that Raequan not be let back on her lease due to their restrictions barring individuals with certain felony convictions from living in public housing. Raequan was then only 18 years old, and eager to return home to live with his loving and supportive mother. YSRP contacted our partners at Community Legal Services and, together, provided sustained advocacy for Raequan so that he would not face the prospect of homelessness. PHA eventually acquiesced after concerted efforts, and Raequan was able to return home to live with his mother.

Once home, YSRP connected Raequan with PowerCorpsPHL, a job training program that gave him hands-on professional experience learning how to maintain stormwater drainage systems, manage an inventory of tools and support a 9-member team that completed projects with the City’s Water Department. PowerCorpsPHL then connected Raequan with an internship with Clean Water Action, where he supported a public education and advocacy campaign about the dangers of lead paint and lead poisoning. Throughout the spring of 2018, Raequan gave presentations about lead remediation, including to a group of over 20 attendees. YSRP attended one of his trainings, proud to see Raequan own his role as a leader and educator.

April 2018: Raequan delivers a presentation on lead remediation.

September 2018: Raequan, left, with John Pace, right, in Raequan and his mother’s apartment with their new refrigerator.

Last summer, Raequan and his mother moved to another apartment within PHA after months on a waitlist. Matthew was there to help out on moving day. When Raequan told him their refrigerator stopped working, YSRP tapped into its network, located a new refrigerator and delivered one to Raequan and his mother.

Raequan finished his 6-month internship with Clean Water Action in 2018. With his eye on college and on activating his dream of owning his own business one day, YSRP nominated Raequan for a new fellowship program that will invest in his leadership, while also allowing him to pursue college and other work at the same time. YSRP stood alongside Raequan as he prepared for the competitive selection process. We were thrilled when Raequan was offered, and accepted, his fellowship.

Raequan continues to mature into the motivated and driven young man that we met from the start. His resilience, through the many challenges he faced prior to his incarceration and after, is boundless. We at YSRP, including Matthew and Katherine, could not be more impressed with the thoughtful and hilarious young man that Raequan has become, and we plan to continue standing by his side as he encounters any future roadblocks, and as he achieves every success.

April 2018: Raequan, second from right, pictured with, from left: Kelsey (YAP volunteer), Katherine and Matthew following a lead remediation presentation.

Matthew Feldman met Raequan in his first year of law school while Raequan was incarcerated in adult jail. A dedicated volunteer with the Youth Advocacy Project, Matthew prepared Raequan’s mitigation report and stayed connected to him long after his return home. Matthew has many fond memories of his time working with Raequan, from the day Raequan told him he’d completed his GED in jail to watching him give a presentation on lead poisoning at his job, to Raequan’s first time trying sushi. He looks forward to continuing to be a part of Raequan’s life as he gets himself ready for college and beyond. Matthew received his JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2018 and was the Penn Law / Langer, Grogan, & Diver Social Justice Fellow at the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project in Philadelphia, where he is now a staff attorney working to protect the constitutional rights of incarcerated individuals.

Katherine Scholle met Raequan in her first year of social work school while he was incarcerated in adult jail. A dedicated volunteer with the Youth Advocacy Project, Katherine prepared Raequan’s mitigation report, built a strong partnership with Raequan, and has stayed connected to him long after his return home. She looks up to Raquan for his incredible resilience, and cannot wait to see the day that Raequan graduates from college — or does what he finds most fulfilling. Katherine received her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice in 2017. She is a licensed social worker in Philadelphia, where she works as a Clinical Supervisor in the Chemical Dependency Unit at Fairmount Behavioral Health.

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