Students compete to improve millennial retention in Philadelphia


The winning team will pitch the idea to Mayor Michael Nutter




Philadelphia believes that millennials will change the world. That’s why it’s looking to keep as many as possible in the city.

Ten Penn students are vying for the opportunity to pitch to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in a new competition seeking ways to make Philadelphia more appealing to millennials — people born between 1980 and the mid-1990s.

These students are finalists in the inaugural year of the Philadelphia Public Policy Case Competition. Managed by the Mayor’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination and the Philadelphia Youth Commission, the contest is seeking ideas from teams of undergraduate and graduate students from across the city.

Between 2006 and 2012, the city’s population of 20 to 34 year olds rose by over 100,000. The city hopes to both find ways to draw in more young Philadelphians and engage the millennials currently living in Philadelphia, Director of Policy in the Office of the Mayor Maia Jachimowicz said.

“We do a great job attracting them to attend colleges and universities, but we want them to stay in the city,” Jackimowicz said.

Sixteen teams from 10 different schools in the Philadelphia area submitted their plans to make the city more millennial-friendly on March 24. Ideas included improving public transit, starting housing initiatives and finding ways to develop millennials’ businesses. PYC Executive Director Jamira Burley said improving the way Philadelphia looks was a major theme of contestants’ pitches.

“I looked for something that was innovative — what is going to take Philadelphia to the next level,” Burley said. “I looked for a holistic policy suggestion.”

A team made up of College sophomore Joy Ting Zhang , Engineering junior Martin Cheong, College junior Amy Phillips, Drexel junior Alexander Repp and College and Wharton sophomore Nicolette Tan are one of the four finalists selected on March 28. The team is proposing extending funding to a liaison office that links the government, non-profits and volunteer organizations so that non-profits can have the highest impact.

“We wanted to really empower these non-profits to be able to achieve their missions a lot better and fix Philadelphia’s problems bit by bit, neighborhood by neighborhood,” Tan said.

The finalists will present their proposals and answer questions before a panel of judges on April 4. The winning team will have the opportunity to meet with Mayor Nutter to pitch its idea and have tickets to his box for a Philadelphia Phillies game.

“We understand that young people have amazing ideas for changing the world and they’re never at the table when decisions are made,” Burley said. “We wanted to put young people in the driver’s seat.”

The judges will include Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez , Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Commerce Alan Greenberger , President of Campus Philly Deborah Diamond and Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs Gloria Casarez . They will select the winning team based on the idea’s applicability, creativity and feasibility.

“[The] purpose of the event is to introduce students and encourage their interest in public policy,” Jachimowicz said. “It’s a nice opportunity for us to get to know students and for us to get to know leaders in Philadelphia.”

Campus Philly and the Wharton Public Policy Initiative are co-sponsoring the competition. The city intends to hold a similar contest every semester.

Ting Zhang , a former Daily Pennsylvanian reporter, appreciates the sentiment of the competition.

“I feel like we can really make an impact in the city and bring the knowledge we learn in class to bring positive change in the community,” she said.

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