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Students, parents, sponsors and mentors — including 11 lawyers — gathered last week to celebrate the graduation of students participating in the Philadelphia Futures’ Sponsor-A-Scholar Program, which pairs low income students from Philadelphia’s neighborhood high schools with individuals from the business and civic community. For the 60 students in the program who graduate from high school this year, mentors provided encouragement, focus and advice from their freshman year in high school and will continue to do so through their first year in college. Philadelphia Futures encourages participating students to obtain a high school education and then continue on to complete a college degree with the help of mentors who commit their time and sponsors who donate money to specific students. Larry Spector of Mann Ungar Spector & Labovitz has been involved in the program as a mentor for the past four years, and said he has gained “friendship and the satisfaction of having helped someone mature and be exposed to more experiences in their life.” Spector’s mentee, Felix Lopez, is graduating from high school and considering a career in law after continuing his education at La Salle University. “The problems of society are so daunting that it’s hard to see how you can make a difference. I decided to help some one,” Spector said. Mentor Sarah Davies of Cozen & O’Conner spends time with high school senior Syretta Williams during dinners, movies, plays or simply through phone conversations. Davies has been a resource when Syretta needed her, and has found her experience in the program gratifying. Syretta is an aspiring lawyer and will attend the Indiana University of Pennsylvania next year because of her interest in their criminology program. Last week, as the accomplishments of the students in SAS were celebrated, Joan Mazzotti celebrated her first anniversary as the executive director of Philadelphia Futures. Mazzotti accepted this position after 23 years at Aramark, where she served as senior vice president and associate general council. Mazzotti’s interactions with the corporate legal world have changed, and she now recruits lawyers to sponsor and mentor the 70 new students that are brought into the SAS program each year. She identifies mentoring as a “great way to give back to the community, because you really have the opportunity to change a life.”

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