I AM because WE ARE

Upon meeting Taylor Paul at the Ideas We Should Steal Festival, his charismatic energy, intellect, and compelling story captured the attention of PYB CEO & Co-founder Kenny Holdsman. Programs like RVA League for Safer Streets are needed in Philadelphia to combat the growing number of adjudicated youths falsely protected by gang activity to show youth that they are powerful and capable beyond gangs and street life. So far in 2020, over 300 lives have been lost to gun violence in our city, more than our communities have seen by August 31st in years 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.¹ PYB applied for the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award. The committee of civic leaders, Nowak family members, and The Philadelphia Citizen staff unanimously chose to award the prize to our innovative creation, titled I AM because WE ARE!
¹Source: Fox 29

I AM because WE ARE is a two-year program, with the pilot phase running in 2020 starting September 15th in one Philadelphia neighborhood plagued with youth gun violence and wrongful decisions. Half of the core program elements are workshops on social and emotional skills such as positive leadership, building positive relationships with peers and adults, masculinity, self-control, goal setting, and positive social capital. The other half of programming uses the transcendent, iconic sport of basketball as a hook to bridge gaps between participants and Coach-Mentors by engaging in skill-building, strength & conditioning, and teamwork development. Many life lessons learning attributes emerge naturally through the sport. Part of our attention is to build a supportive community for not only the participating young people but also the adult staff team. Leadership development of coaches and mentors, many of whom come from the same communities and circumstances as our young people, is what makes what we do so effective. We firmly believe that our coach-mentors have the ability to help these young people identify, develop, and surface their intellectual, personal, social, emotional, civic, and career talents and aspirations so they can select pathways that will lead them to a more positive and fulfilling life.

The instructional staff is comprised of PYB’s most seasoned and culturally relatable Coach-Mentors Aaron Crump, Jaryn Gardner, and Torre Harrison. Taylor Paul and Weldon “Prince” Bunn of the RVA League for Safer Streets are also fully engaged, providing ongoing training and technical support of this blended staff team, and to ensure that the appropriate culture and norms are set with the participating young people. Key partners include DA Diversion Judge Michael Erdos of Phila Court of Common Pleas and George Mosee of PAAN, assisting with many aspects of programming, including recruitment. 

What makes I AM because WE ARE unique?

From the beginning, participants and coaches will create individualized development plans to ensure every young man has precise goals during and after the program. Each participant will also reflect upon their journey throughout the program, through structured journaling and conversations. The combination of extraordinary and relatable coaches and mentors, coupled with the game of basketball and an array of other programmatic elements, will prove to be highly potent in the lives of all participants. Our Theory of Change and Measurement & Evaluation capabilities is combined with RVA League’s proven ideals and culture.

Although we are confident that a measurable difference in attitude and some Social and Emotional Learning attribute acquisition can be made after a 100+ hour program immersion in the initial cohort, we fully believe that lasting outcomes and impact will require a longer-lasting intervention and an enduring relationship with our organization.​ 


Aaron Crump

2020 Leadership Development Academy Member, MSPP Coach-Mentor

Aaron Crump, son of the late great Hank Gathers, is an engaging mentor who has a strong passion for helping young people reach their goals and achieve their full potential. Aaron currently works for “Work Mt. Airy” as a co-working space manager. He received his high school diploma from Cheltenham High School.

Read Aaron accept the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award on PYB’s behalf

Jaryn Garner

2020 MSPP Coach-Mentor

Jaryn Garner attended undergrad at the University of Virginia before she transferred to Saint Joseph’s University, where she studied Kinesiology. At SJU, Jaryn received a full scholarship to play basketball. She spent time volunteering as an AAU coach, Special Olympics coach, and a camp counselor. She also worked at the Boys & Girls Club in Virginia, which was a very rewarding experience for her. Recently, she received her Masters in Health Administration from Saint Joseph’s University.

Torre Harrison

2020 Leadership Development Academy Member, MSPP Coach-Mentor, Former Philadelphia Police Officer

Torre Harrison has an extensive history working with young people, specifically centered around basketball. As a young male, Torre attened Andrew Hamilton Middle School and West Philadelphia High School. He has coached for Archbishop John Carroll High School, Nike Team Final, and Girard College High School. He spent time as a police officer in Philadelphia, as well as a Home Supervisor at Baptist Children Services. He graduated from Alvernia College in 2000, followed by receiving his masters at Newbury College. Torre first joined the PYB family in 2020 as a MSPP Site Lead at his alma mater Andrew Hamilton Middle School!

Read Torre’s LDA epilogue short titled, “Where There Ever Be?”