Photo from Penn Community Hoops

A new club is using basketball to bridge the gap between Penn and local high school students.

Founded in fall 2016, Penn Community Hoops is a mentorship club that combines basketball with college application advising. Club members work with basketball coaches at four local schools to identify high school basketball players interested in learning about the college admissions process.  

College sophomores and Co-Presidents Skylar Deutsch and Christopher Bloomer founded the club because they believed mentors could better advise younger students after building trust through athletics. College sophomore Charlie Dolgenos is another co-president of the club. 

"We felt that these Penn students could bond with Philadelphia local high school students over basketball, and then, after they're able to bond, they're able to teach them something," Bloomer said, adding that members hope to show students that basketball and having fun are parts of college as well.

Photo from Penn Community Hoops

The club brings together mentors and high school students to play basketball and then meet one-on-one to talk about college. The mentors and high school students exchange phone numbers to continue the relationship beyond the first meeting. 

The new club has already had tangible impacts on local students. Several former participants are now freshmen in college — including one of Bloomer's mentees, with whom he is still in contact. 

“All that exists is a little gap in information between kids that get into college and kids that do not get into college," Bloomer said. Deutch added that many former participants “didn’t know that you were supposed to take a practice test before taking the SAT.”

The club has worked with Olney Charter High School, KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, Bodine High School for International Affairs and Frankford High School so far, and they hope to work with additional schools in the future. Penn Community Hoops holds one event for each high school every two months.

On Oct. 1, the club brought Frankford high school students to campus for a two-hour scrimmage, which went into triple overtime, and then did practice SAT questions and revised college essays in New College House. 

As a kickoff to the second year of the program, the club brought the students to a Philadelphia 76ers game at the Palestra, where they had court-side tickets. Frankford basketball coach Howard Griffith praised the Oct. 1 event, calling it “resourceful and a huge building block."

"More than anything else, they're creating a relationship that will last months to even years later, where at any moment, one of these high school students. If they need any help, they can reach out to someone they've built a relationship with, and who wants to help," Bloomer said.

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