Philadelphia, academia, and athletics. For Vance McNear, these three areas largely encompass his significant life experiences, important daily work, and his ongoing values and being. In his current role as an Academic Mentor within PYB’s Middle School Partnership Program, an afterschool and weekend program executed through a partnership with six middle schools in North Philadelphia, Vance is able to continue to embody all three attributes.
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Vance attended Roman Catholic High School where he shined as a varsity football player and a member in the band, playing both the saxophone and drums. Vance continued his education and football playing career at Widener University where he competed as a running back for two years until he was injured. Upon transferring to LaSalle University, Donnie Carr and Rasual Butler (two friends, accompanying Roman graduates, and members on LaSalle’s men’s basketball team) encouraged Vance to pursue a senior basketball manager position. Former Head Coach, William “Speedy” Morris welcomed Vance to the LaSalle basketball team and in two years, with a full Philadelphia and basketball-based college experience, Vance graduated from LaSalle with a degree in Business with a concentration in Management Information Systems.
After graduation, Vance held positions as at ICS Corporation as an IT Account Specialist and at Montgomery County Youth Center as a Youth Coordinator. A couple years later, Vance worked for Lincoln Academy Charter School, an alternative school in Northeast Philadelphia, where he met Eric Worley, now PYB’s Program Director. Due to Vance’s interest in and commitment to improving the lives of young people, particularly within the realm of academia, Eric recommended that Vance to go back to school and earn his master’s in Education. Vance went on to graduate from Gwynedd Mercy University with a Graduate Certification in Special Education.
For the past 10 years, Vance has worked as a Special Education Teacher at James G. Blaine School where he has taught a variety of young people from the North Philadelphia section of the city. In addition to this role, Vance is a licensed minister at True Gospel Tabernacle Family Church.
“My father is the founder and pastor of the Church. I used to also serve as the youth pastor. During this time, anything that I could get my hands on and bring to the Church, I would. Because the kids gravitated toward basketball, the game was one of them.”
In conjunction with Eric Worley’s basketball-based organization, Philly Triple Threat, Vance created a basketball tournament at the Church which included several schools within the area. Blaine School competed and won.
A few years later, Vance and his students at Blaine School were presented the opportunity to participate in PYB’s afterschool program. Knowing his students’ passion for playing the game, Vance said it was an easy decision.
“Certain things are priceless. And I think investing in these children is priceless,” Vance stated “PYB is a conduit to get these kids off the street, out of trouble, and doing something that they like to do.”
Although the program offers basketball skill-building and gameplay, half of the program is dedicated to academic enrichment within the classroom, led by a cadre of Academic Mentors. During this time, PYB’s student-athletes develop their own voice while sharpening their analytic abilities through the dissection of relevant articles that are at the cross-section of sports and social justice, as well as improve their mathematics skills through their engagement in NBA Math Hoops, a basketball-based statistical board game.
As PYB’s Academic Mentor at Blaine School, Vance understands the severity of providing young people with engaging, well-rounded, afterschool experiences and believes PYB does just that.
“PYB helps children not only hone their basketball skills or gives a kid without any basketball skills a chance to develop some, but also helps hone their academic skills. Basketball is already fun for the kids and I try to make education enjoyable too.”
PYB is most thankful to have Vance as a highly-devoted, experienced educator and key member within the PYB team of Coaches and Academic Mentors. He and the Blaine School students have participated in both of the program’s two years of formation.
“I love the PYB vision and I hope it continues to grow because I believe the city of Philadelphia needs it. Our children need it, especially those within the schools that don’t have much.”
As Vance continues to provide meaningful academic experiences during the PYB afterschool program, he has recently accepted a new full-time position as an Instruction Specialist for Special Education children in pre-K programs.
Regardless of where his pursuits in Philadelphia, academia, and athletics take him, he remains committed to PYB and its mission to improve the lives of our city’s young people.
“I’m appreciative of being a part of PYB. I like saying, ‘I am PYB.’”
By Diana Venezia, Fund Development Coordinator