While he was a student at Ursinus College, Alex Peay ’09 founded the Rising Sons program to build a sense of community among the black male students on campus.
Today, that simple idea has transformed into a service organization that is gaining global recognition.
Peay and Mubarak Lawrence ’10, both Philadelphia residents, have been awarded Echoing Green’s Black Male Achievement Fellowship for Ones Up, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization that grew out of the Rising Sons initiative they started at Ursinus. The community service focused organization aims to build young leaders — male and female — and address issues affecting underprivileged populations.
Echoing Green is a global nonprofit organization that provides fellowships, seed-stage funding, and strategic support to social entrepreneurs around the world.
“This will allow us access to a global network that will provide us with resources that will allow us to continue to grow and find our niche,” Peay says of the fellowship.
Lawrence adds, “Work that went relatively unnoticed and underfunded for years can now be enhanced as a result of this fellowship.”
Echoing Green has awarded more than $4.2 million in unrestricted seed-stage funding and strategic foundational support to emerging leaders working to bring about positive social change.
Ones Up works to hone the “skills, talents, and passion” of young adults ages 18-35 in order to transform disadvantaged communities. Peay and Lawrence turned the group they started at Ursinus into a nonprofit organization after graduating from college.
“I convinced [Lawrence] to make the dumbest decision of his life and move with me to Philadelphia to build on this idea, even though we had no idea what it would look like,” Peay laughs.
It was the opposite of a “dumb decision.” It was an inspired one.
Through Ones Up, Peay and Lawrence spearhead community service projects, run youth programs, and sponsor workshops.
“We’ve been using community engagement as a workforce development tool to help young people turn their passion into their profession,” Peay says. “We measure our impact based on how many of our members go off to college, get jobs, and even start their own business.”
By helping participants determine what career they want to pursue and what skills they possess, the organization enables them to create and follow their own career paths.
“We wanted our approach to be more diverse and universal,” Lawrence says. “So now with Ones Up, we are focusing on the skills and talents of the individual in order to provide rigorous personal and professional development though civic engagement.”
Peay says Ones Up customizes each experience for every man and woman. “We want to help them turn their passion into their profession,” he says. “I would always tell people to, ‘put your ones up.’ We’re one and we’re rising together. It became our slogan. It’s part of the culture we created and our beliefs.” – By Ed Moorhouse