A citywide collaborative effort to understand, focus public attention on and most importantly raise Philadelphia's graduation, engagement and re-engagement rates through a collective impact strategy.

The project's launch in 2006 coincided with the release of Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia's Dropout Crisis, a groundbreaking study that documented the dimensions and scope of Philadelphia's dropout crisis and emphasized that its resolution would require actions on many fronts. Since its inception, Project U-Turn has provided more than 28,000 re-engagement opportunities, leveraged and/or realigned $272M from public and private sectors, and has continued to commission studies to assess the needs and realities of Philadelphia's young people and inform program-based interventions and education policy decisions.

Goal #1: Re-Engagement

To increase the number of young people who re-engage to 70% and ensure 50% of re-engaged young people earn their high school degree/equivalency through high quality programs.



Establish a shared vision, measurement and accountability process to support high-quality youth re-engagement programs.


Refine existing models and develop new approaches to better meet the unique educational needs of students who have re-engaged.


Increase and improve connections between re-engagement and post-secondary opportunities for disconnected and re-engaged youth.

Goal #2: Dropout Prevention

To reduce the number of students
who disconnect from
high school to 20%.



Promote adoption of early warning dropout indicators and related intervention strategies to reduce the likelihood of disengagement.


Institute more high-quality options enabling students to complete high school ready for college and career success.


Increase access to in- and out-of-school engagement opportunities based on student input.

Project U-Turn, managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN), is a cross-sector alliance.

    It consists of three groups to move Project U-Turn's agenda:
  • The executive committee with representation from top-level officials
  • The steering committee with representation from system leaders who advance the alliance's agenda
  • The action teams with representation from groups of direct service practitioners and administrators that work to implement the action plan

Program Options

These programs were expanded or established by Project U-Turn members since its inception in 2006.

Multiple Pathways to Graduation (MPG) Programs

Description Target Population Partners
The Accelerated High Schools are small high school programs where students can accumulate credits at an accelerated pace and work towards earning a diploma in less than three years. These programs offer teacher- and computer-based instruction. Off-track and out-of-school young people between the ages of 15-21 who are two or more years behind in school with fewer than half of the credits required for graduation accumulated. Operated by providers contracted by School District of Philadelphia.
Description Target Population Partners
Located on the campus of the Community College of Philadelphia, Gateway to College is a dual enrollment program that allows students to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and college credits. Young people ages 16-21 with 21 or fewer high school credits. Eligible students must be able to read at or above an 8th grade level and complete requirements for high school graduation before or during the year of their 22nd birthday. Operated by the Community College of Philadelphia through a contractual agreement with School District of Philadelphia.
Description Target Population Partners
Formerly known as "Twilight Schools," the Educational Options Program allows students and adults to continue earning credits towards a high school diploma through afternoon and evening classes, which take place at select School District of Philadelphia high schools. Anybody over 17 years of age with at least eight high school credits, but who are not currently enrolled in a regular day school. Operated by School District of Philadelphia.
Description Target Population Partners
E3 Centers offer a holistic approach to preparing disconnected young people and youth returning from juvenile justice placement to achieve long-term educational, career, and personal goals. Services include low-literacy supports, GED-prep classes, post-secondary access and planning, and intensive work-readiness programming that prepares participants for unsubsidized employment. Other services include job-readiness training, subsidized internships, community-service and service-learning opportunities, and job search assistance. Young people ages 16-21 who have disconnected from school and/or are returning from juvenile justice placement. Operated by providers contracted by the Philadelphia Youth Network.
Description Eligibility
The Early Scholars program offers students the opportunity to earn up to 12 Community College credits per year while finishing high school at no cost. 11th and 12th grade students who attend a School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school with a minimum GPA of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) and no record of serious absenteeism or other attendance issues or serious disciplinary infractions while in high school. Students are required to take the College's placement assessment and place at appropriate levels (Level 4 or higher on English and Math 017 or higher).
Description Eligibility Partners
For out of school youth to receive academic instruction and support geared to assist them in obtaining their GED and transitioning into a post-secondary institution. Life skills, college readiness, career exposure, and computer technology are also addressed throughout the program. Students participate in job fairs and career panels, and go on to college tours and other field trips. Philadelphia residents, 17-24 years old who meet income eligibility requirements District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund

Innovation Programs

Post-Secondary Bridging ProgramThe Post-Secondary Bridging program is based in E3 Power Centers with a primary goal of dramatically enhancing post-secondary success among Philadelphia's opportunity youth (young people between the ages of 16-24 who are neither in school nor employed). The Post-Secondary Bridging program is powered by the Social Innovation Fund in partnership with Jobs for the Future and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. This program introduces participants to “college knowledge” and coaches them through a full semester at the Community College of Philadelphia. Lessons learned from implementing the pilot will help inform Project U-Turn's agenda for creating more post-secondary opportunities for disconnected youth throughout Philadelphia.
ACE+ Pilot ProgramThe School District of Philadelphia currently maintains a portfolio of educational options that includes programs and services for out-of-school youth and struggling students. The portfolio comprises a variety of program types, services and interventions. Chief among these options are the Accelerated High Schools, a collection of small schools expressly built for over-age and under-credited students, ages 16 to 21 who are returning to high school or otherwise significantly at risk of dropping out. As a model, Accelerated High Schools adhere to a common set of design principles and services. They share core objectives in terms of student outcomes, e.g. skill-gain rates, graduation, and successful transition to postsecondary employment or education.

Project U-Turn, Philadelphia's response to the City's dropout crisis, exists as a multi-system, multi-stakeholder campaign organized around four core areas of work: stakeholder organizing; policy barrier removal and funding identification; data and research; and diversification and expansion of quality educational options. The latter focus includes the development of programs and services that strategically and effectively address persistent systemic needs and service gaps. Presently, the need that Project U-Turn is tackling involves enhancing the academic and social readiness of students graduating from the Accelerated High Schools and transitioning to postsecondary education.

ACE+ Pilot ProgramsDuring the summer 2015 semester, Community College of Philadelphia's Division of Adult and Community Education will provide an educational opportunity for up to 100 students across the city's portfolio of Accelerated High School programs that will provide access to higher education and the opportunity to earn college credits while completing high school. This early exposure to college(or dual enrollment) approach contains components outlined in Job For the Future's (JFF) 2009 publication entitled Innovations in College Readiness. This model has proven successful at decreasing student dropout rates, increasing student success in enrolling into and completing college, reducing the amount of time and resources spent in developmental/remedial courses, and instituting new approaches to incentivizing students through the early offering of free college courses to high school students.

This intensive five-week summer program will give participants the opportunity to take up to two college courses each, at no expense to them. Program participants will have the opportunity to select from a variety of exciting, 21st century academic and technical skill building courses that will be offered on the Main Campus of Community College of Philadelphia. The courses will be taught by seasoned college faculty, and the students will have a chance to earn college credit, meet other students from diverse backgrounds, and explore their career interests.

Get Involved

In Philadelphia, our work as a city is not complete until equitable systems are built that enable every young person in Philadelphia to achieve a secondary credential and succeed in their post-secondary choice.


Invest in Project U-Turn

Your financial support helps keep young people on track to educational success.

Contact Amy Levine, Director of Development at PYN to discuss how your investment can support Project U-Turn's efforts. Join our collective impact effort by creating a unique opportunity.

Partner with Us

Partner with Project U-Turn

Join our collective impact effort by creating a unique opportunity.

Contact Stephanie Gambone, Executive Vice President at PYN, if you are interested in discussing sponsorship and in-kind donations, or exploring public-private partnerships.

To learn more about Project U-Turn, send us an email.

Member Organizations

If you're interested in getting connected, please email us.

Brown's Superstores, Inc. • Center for Literacy • Community College of Philadelphia* • Congreso de Latinos Unidos* • Department of Human Services, Education Support Center* • District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund • JEVS Human Services* • Mayor's Office of Adult Education • Mayor's Office of Education* • National League of Cities • Philadelphia District Attorney's Office • Philadelphia Education Fund • Philadelphia Housing Authority • Philadelphia Water Department • Philadelphia Works, Inc. • Public Citizens for Children and Youth* • Philadelphia Youth Network (managing partner)* • School District of Philadelphia (Opportunity Network*, Office of Early Childhood Education, Office of Strategic Analytics, Office of Truancy) • United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey • William Penn Foundation* • YESPhilly • YouthBuild Philly • Youth Commission • Youth United for Change • Youth/Young Adult Representatives*

*Project U-Turn Steering Committee

Project U-Turn