Advance Friends Select: Transforming the Parkway Building, Expanding the Campus, and Growing the Endowment

Transforming the Parkway Building

When Friends Select students began the 2021–22 school year, they were welcomed with new learning spaces in the Parkway Building, thanks to the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign. The school’s largest project since the building was constructed in the 1960s, the renovations provided four new lower school classrooms, a modern lower school art studio, a larger lobby that doubles as a community space, and accessible administrative offices adjacent to the main entrance. This effort, supported by the generosity of the Friends Select community, provides state-of-the-art classrooms and facilities that mirror and support the quality in teaching and academic programming for which the school is known and accommodates the steady growth in enrollment.

“In a lower school that embraces best practices, as we do at Friends Select, each classroom has a whole-group meeting area, tables for collaborating, a meeting area for small group instruction, a comfortable and attractive library area that invites children in and mimics a home-like literate environment, and several spaces in the room where individual students can work independently with fewer distractions,” said lower school director Dave Younkin. “Our new classroom designs allow for all of this.” 

Both the location of the new art studio, at the main entrance of the Parkway Building, and the design of the space, with walls allowing those in the lobby to see the artistic inspiration occurring in the classroom, provide students with an understanding that their creative work is a priority of the school. The studio entrance facing the lobby is flanked by a large window with glass shelves, which showcase student artwork for all to see. Students access the space through the Parkway gallery, a corridor lined with artwork by students, employees, and alumni.
 
Lower school teacher Nathan Paul welcomes the perspective the design of the new lower school classrooms provides into his third grade classroom for those in the building. “The windows facing the hallway in the building share the learning that’s happening in the classroom with the folks in the front of the school,” he said. “I think this helps our prospective families get a sense for the type of school that we are; moreover, it gives the students a sense that what they’re doing in the classroom is important.”    

Expanding the Campus to 1520 Race Street

The Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign completed the purchase of the historic building at 1520 Race Street. This property will be transformed into four floors of upper school classrooms, art studios, laboratories, community gathering spaces, and faculty offices. This next phase of the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign will expand Friends Select’s campus across 16th Street to the grounds of the Friends Center and Race Street Meetinghouse, an epicenter of Quakerism. Noah Bonner-Monastro ’23, who will be a senior upon the project’s completion, said, “The classrooms at 1520 Race Street will expand on Friends Select’s mission of furthering the educational excellence of the school as well as the mission of being in the city and of the city in terms of learning. I don’t think other Philadelphia schools offer a dedicated space like this, and I think it will definitely attract more students to the school.”

Science Labs
Plans for new science facilities reflect direct input from science faculty and their programmatic needs, and include necessary updates to parallel their excellence in teaching.

• The chemistry and biology labs will include work spaces for experiments and interactive learning. 
• These two labs will also include a dedicated space for faculty to prepare lab work and store materials. 

With a modifiable layout of tables and chairs, the new physics laboratory will be better equipped for collaborative work, and its ceiling grid system will allow flexibility for models that students may build while also providing access to electricity.

Visual Arts Studios
The wide-ranging curriculum of the visual arts department will benefit from the dedicated studios provided by 1520 Race Street: 

• a fine arts studio for drawing and painting classes; 
• a studio for our three-dimensional curriculum, including metalsmithing, sculpture, and glassblowing; 
• and a photography and digital design lab. 

These spacious classrooms will more than double the current space, accommodate the continued growth in enrollment in the visual arts program, and support collaborative opportunities with other disciplines. “I love that we are going to be in studios that are built just for the art department and in such a historic building,” said upper school art teacher Lynda Greenwade P’03 ’12, who has taught at Friends Select for 30 years. “And, as a 3D teacher, I love that we are going to be with the science department. There are so many intersections between art and science that we will be able to explore together.”

Expanding Friends Select’s campus also extends the school’s reach within the city and increases opportunities for partnerships from which students will benefit long after graduation. “We are here in the city surrounded by amazing institutions such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mütter Museum, Franklin Institute, and high-tech science labs from Drexel University to Temple University to the University of Pennsylvania,” reflected Natalie Mayer P’32, upper school science teacher and department chair. “This really puts us in a place where we are preparing our 
students not only to visit those places but also maybe to enter those places later on after they graduate from Friends Select or from college.”    

Growing the Endowment

Friends Select is seeking to increase its endowment fund, the cornerstone of its financial foundation. The endowment’s areas of greatest need include financial aid, faculty and staff compensation, professional development, and to make the school more accessible to prospective students, families, and employees from the Philadelphia region. “The school’s restricted endowment is made up of gifts to the school for supporting specific purposes, such as financial aid and employee salaries,” explained director of financial operations Matt Rosen. “Friends Select takes these gifts and invests the funds under the guidance of an investment manager, using the returns generated from the investments to support the intended purpose of the gift.”
    
Through the endowment for financial aid, Friends Select sustains its centuries-old tradition of tuition assistance for students and their families. Currently, 36% of Friends Select students receive financial aid of some kind—a high percentage among our peer schools—and Friends Select allocates 18% of its current operating budget, or $4.2 million, to support the financial aid program. This commitment to help the families of students would require an endowment of $75 million to sustain.  
    
Additionally, by expanding our endowment in support of SummerSessions, Friends Select can welcome additional local students who are interested in taking classes at our school but who might not have the means to afford a Friends Select education. SummerSessions offerings include courses that make full use of our location in the city; academic classes enabling students to advance in math, science, world languages, and the arts; and college counseling support for students and their families. 
    
The endowment for dedicated faculty honors the talent and commitment of our teachers who determine the quality of the classroom experience. Increased endowment income will help Friends Select offer compensation that will continue to attract, retain, and support outstanding employees. Additionally, it will fund the professional development opportunities that allow faculty to continually advance their skills to better meet the needs of students. Friends Select faculty and staff are lifelong learners, and our investment in their continued growth benefits our community.
    
At present, Friends Select draws 4% from the endowment annually, down from 6% decades ago. This intentional decreased draw supports the school’s mission while also allowing the principal to grow to support future needs. Simply put, the larger the endowment, the greater the stability and flexibility for Friends Select. The school’s endowment currently stands at $15 million, which is modest compared with peer institutions. An addition of $75 million to the endowment would meet these critical needs to support financial aid, faculty compensation, and summer enrichment programming. “Giving to the endowment is critical for Friends Select’s long-term financial health, because it creates new recurring revenue for the school that can be used to enhance our program,” Matt explained. “A gift to the endowment is a way to support the school forever.”  

For more information on supporting the Advance Friends Select: Transformation Campaign, contact Christine Jefferson, chief development officer, at chrisj@friends-select.org or 215.561.5900, x3141 or visit friends-select.org/transformation.