The unique passion, energy, and obsession of Philadelphian basketball community can be tough to fully understand and capture for people who come into the community from the outside. Thankfully for Diana Venezia, she had already grown up with a large window looking into the city’s basketball culture at the collegiate level, so diving into work serving its foundation — our city’s young people — was a challenge she was excited and prepared for.
Although she grew up an hour and a half north of Philadelphia in Westfield, New Jersey, Diana was raised in a “Villanova family,” with both of her parents, several relatives, and her sister having attended the famed Big 5 University and reigning Men’s Basketball National Champion. However, despite having a previous grasp on the idea of basketball being a cultural touchstone in Philadelphia, she has been blown away by just how much that statement rings true since joining PYB as the organization’s Fund Development Coordinator in early February.
“It is truly a different basketball atmosphere,” Diana says. “That’s not a knock against the basketball culture I grew up playing in, but it feels like the game is truly in young people here, like it simply comes along with their Philadelphia roots.”
“Being around people like the student-athletes at our camps, as well as our summer interns who have been part of that Philly basketball experience their whole lives, I can see how Philly basketball is one big community,” she says. “It is inspiring to be a part of.”
Diana is no stranger to the sensation of being a young person growing up living, eating, and breathing basketball. She was an avid student-athlete her whole childhood, and translated that passion and dedication into the chance to play Division I collegiate basketball at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. However, Diana feels opportunities and potential-developing programs particular to young girls were few and far between in her day as a young female student-athlete. Drawing upon her own experiences and those of other young girls around her, she feels as if PYB is well-positioned to capitalize on the already burning passion of young female student-athletes in this city, and provide them with unique and equal chances for holistic development.
“The creation of gender specific opportunities for middle school and high school aged young girls within PYB’s Girls’ Empowerment Program will significantly aid in their overall development during their sometimes delicate growing years” Diana says. “Understanding the unique situation that female student-athletes are in and providing experiences centered around topics relevant to them, all while exposing them to positive and caring women in the Philadelphia area, is powerful. The exposure to female mentors who are leaders in the basketball community like our head coach, Brooke Queenan, our female student-athlete coaches, successful female board members, and just generally all types of women within the Philadelphia basketball community who can identify with our young girls, has the potential to be extremely empowering and transformational.”
Beyond the gender specific opportunities being offered to girls by PYB, Diana was also thrilled at the success that the organization has had with integrating young people of both genders in academic and athletic programming. This summer’s Collegiate Summer Camp Series in particular stood out for her as a showcase of how this integration could positively impact young girls.
“Our participating young girls were integrated with our young boys in all aspects of the program, on the court and in the classroom,” she says. “It is a valuable experience to motivate our young girls to feel confident about themselves while competing and preforming athletically and academically with boys in their future life pursuits. Some of the girls were really dominating the games, and as a woman myself, that is very empowering to me to see these younger girls excelling in that sort of atmosphere.”
In her 7 months at PYB, Diana has been a tremendous asset to the organization and has helped its programming, budgeting, and boardroom run smoothly and successfully. PYB is lucky to have her helping to serve the young people and communities of Philadelphia moving forward.
By Isaac Bushnell, Corporate Intern