ASAP Scrabble: A Community of Firsts

“I did it!”

A Community of Firsts

“I did it!”

That’s what you would have heard from Jason Wang, a 6th grader from the ASAP Scrabble Club at Mayfair Elementary if you happened to be at the Weitzman Museum for American Jewish History on Tuesday, May 9th.

But it’s not what you think. Jason wasn’t ecstatic over a bingo or a triple word score – he was elated that he overcame his fear of elevators that day. We see this a lot at ASAP – our community of students experiencing real-life “firsts,” whether it be their first time on a field trip, first time competing outside the city of Philadelphia, or even their first time riding an elevator.

At ASAP Scrabble’s annual Keep Calm and Scrabble On event, students shared many firsts amongst a community of supportive, like-minded peers. Featuring literacy games, read-alouds with local authors, and – of course – two rounds of tournament Scrabble, this event brings together more than 100 students from across the city to cap off a year of fun, friendly community competition. The event was also an opportunity for some of ASAP Scrabble’s newest clubs to get in on the community of fun– like the team from Powel Elementary:

A Community of Parents

Despite this being Powel’s first tournament of the year, they showed up in full force, backed by a team of supportive parents. Oliver, or as his students call him “Teacher Strickland”, brought with him 17 brand new Scrabble players from grades 1st-4th grade with 9 parents as their cheerleaders.

Another group among the first timers to join this community was long-time ASAP partner, Wagner Middle School. Coach Jennifer Dougherty brought an all-girls squad of 10 students. Among them was 6th grader, Sophia Wilson who had only been playing for a couple of weeks, but enjoys spending time with her friends during Scrabble club.

On calming those first-time competition nerves, Sophia shared:

ASAP Scrabble community team from Powel Elementary School

ASAP is proud of its community of students, coaches, teachers, and parents that make this event possible each year. And even more proud of the safe environment our community has facilitated for students to be themselves while playing a game that they love. Keep Calm may have been the last Scrabble event of the school year, but it’s only the beginning for these young Scrabblers.

But we need your help!

You can support ASAP’s community of students by making a donation at

Your contribution makes a difference in our after school scrabble community

Dear Friend,

The Need

The far-reaching effects of the pandemic and surging gun violence have created unprecedented challenges for children in Philadelphia. However, with a donation to ASAP, you can help schools and communities across the city provide after school and summer enrichment (like ASAP Scrabble) that inspires learning, keeps kids safe, and helps them get back on track.

Notably Schools like McKinley, a neighborhood public school in West Kensington.

After School at McKinley

For the last seventeen years, Julia Feliciano has run after school programs at McKinley through the Norris Square Community Alliance. Like most of us, Julia was eager for a return-to-normal after two years of navigating COVID. But when her students returned to McKinley, she discovered the impact of the pandemic was much greater than she expected.

Equally important, when the school reopened Julia noticed many of her younger students had fallen behind – especially in their reading skills.

ASAP Scrabble makes way at McKinley

Faced with the need to both engage her families AND address her students’ reading losses, Julia turned to longtime partner ASAP – specifically, ASAP Scrabble.

Julia and her team received training, equipment, and other resources from ASAP. Consequently, the Scrabble club at McKinley took off, growing to 40 students playing weekly – including eight pairs of siblings.

In a school that is predominantly Latino, the club has been especially impactful for Julia’s Spanish-speaking families.

Despite all the challenges Julia has encountered the last couple of years, seeing the difference enrichment programs like Scrabble have made for her students makes it all worthwhile.

ASAP reconnecting school communities

The McKinley Scrabble club is just one of more than 300 after school and summer enrichment clubs ASAP has supported this year. ASAP has reconnected thousands of kids to their school communities and reignited their love of learning.

For this reason, ASAP is committed to helping more schools and communities achieve a new “normal.” One that ensures all students have access to safe, enriching activities and experiences that can help them succeed in school and beyond.

How you can help

But we need your help!

Through your generosity, ASAP can be the partner that community leaders like Julia and schools like McKinley deserve. And together, we can build a better future for young people in our city. 

For this reason, we are most grateful for your support



P.S. 77% of ASAP’s clubs serve youth in neighborhood public schools and areas with the highest rates of gun violence. Give today and help us provide safe, enriching spaces for youth in communities that need it the most!!

After School (and in the office): We Build Futures

Coming out of the pandemic, ASAP’s office has worked closely with schools throughout the city to help them re-engage their students. How? By providing after school opportunities that speak to their interests and can reignite their love for learning.  To ensure our services reach communities with the greatest needs, this year ASAP’s office welcomed a new strategic engagement team. Their job is to prioritize outreach to neighborhood public schools and areas with the highest rates of gun violence.

Corporate Life

And when it comes to starting a new partnership with schools, it pays to have the right corporate messenger.

Enter ASAP’s newest Outreach Coordinator: John Green aka Johnny Scrabble

John will tell you that Scrabble changed his life. For the past 12 years John has been a beloved staple of ASAP Scrabble – coaching clubs at schools across the city while also training dozens of new Scrabble club leaders each year.

Dedication to service

Nearest and dearest to John’s heart has been his work at the Juvenile Justice Center. There, he introduces the game of Scrabble to incarcerated youth while sharing his own experiences from his time spent in the criminal justice system. John’s dedication to enriching the lives of young people in Philadelphia earned him the first-ever Mayor’s Philly Hero Award in 2017.

Given his resume, it’s safe to say John was more than qualified to take on a new corporate challenge. And since joining ASAP’s strategic engagement team in August, John has been instrumental in developing new partnerships with ASAP’s high-priority schools. From site visits to tabling events, he’s been meeting with anyone and everyone to spread the word about ASAP.

Strategic Outreach

The proof is in the numbers. Since just the start of the school year, John and the strategic engagement team have helped establish nearly 75 new clubs . This includes 58 new clubs in neighborhood public schools – 33 of which are in the 15 zip codes with the highest rates of gun violence, according to the City’s Office of the Controller.

“Instead of going to a school and trying to reach one or two teachers about Scrabble, now I can contact entire administration offices and get all four of our initiatives in there at once.”

– John Green

Johnny Corporate

And while making connections and charming school administrators is nothing new for John, office life is. As he likes to say, Johnny Scrabble has become Johnny Corporate.

On working alongside John in the office, fellow Outreach Coordinator Gianna Colantuono says:

It’s been wonderful watching John flourish in his new corporate position. And while he might be well-adjusted to office life now, it will never get old hearing from the young people he’s impacted through the years.  Just last week, one of his former students at the Juvenile Justice Center reached out to John to say that he’s doing well and is furthering his studies at Temple University!

How does that make John feel? Those who know John will likely already know the answer:

In keeping with the theme for our 20th year — After School: We Build Futures – John’s story demonstrates how finding something you love can change the course of your life. This winter we hope you will consider helping ASAP connect more youth in Philadelphia with after school activities and experiences that can change their lives.

Dear Friend,

Closed pools, closed libraries, and closed schools. Even before the pandemic, kids in Philadelphia have known the sting of missing out on the things they love. Now more than ever, our city’s kids need safe spaces where they can connect with peers and pursue their passions. This year, ASAP has organized more than 250 after school and summer programs to do just that. But we have more work to do. Will you help us give children in Philadelphia the opportunities, like drama, they deserve after school?

After School Drama and the Pandemic

Thankfully, for the students in the ASAP Drama Club at Martha Washington Elementary in West Philly, even when their school was closed, Miss Hope and Miss Kate have been there to keep their imaginations open for business, both after school and in the summer.

ASAP Drama Impact

For the past four years, ASAP Drama Club Leader Hope McDowell and ASAP Teaching Artist Kate have been inspiring students in the ACE Program after school at Martha Washington to think of their own experiences and ideas as worthy of the stage.

Hope recalls a young girl who was self-conscious about her speech impediment and shied away from drama club. After sending her home with a script and some lines to memorize, her mom noticed an immediate difference.

Similarly, Hope believes drama has helped her grow, too. Watching artists like Kate embrace her students’ zany antics, Hope has recognized how meaningful freedom of expression is for the children she teaches.

Overall, for Kate, it’s the trust that Hope has built with her students that is key to their club’s success.

Access to Arts Education

In addition, Kate’s praise for Hope speaks to the precarious nature of arts education and the important role organizations like ASAP play in ensuring students from underserved communities have the same opportunities as their more affluent peers.

Across the nation, African-American and Latinx students today have 40% fewer arts education experiences than they did in the 1980s.

Because as Hope and Kate have witnessed time and time again, the arts can be the key to unlocking their full potential.

Thinking back to the shy little girl with the speech impediment, Hope smiles:

We need your help!

Through the generosity of people like you, ASAP will continue to work alongside dedicated, creative, and caring educators like Hope and Kate to give students throughout Philadelphia the chance to be free, to explore, to find their own voice.

Finally, in this important work, we are most grateful for your support.



P.S. Did you know a child who has continued access to arts education is 74% more likely to plan to attend college? Your support will help broaden horizons for kids throughout Philadelphia.

Over the last month, ASAP has been sharing the stories of our committed Chess, Debate, and Scrabble partners in an effort to remind our community just how critical after school programs are in the lives of Philadelphia children as we continue to come back together. This week ASAP Drama takes center stage

In recent years, ASAP Drama has joined forces with Read By 4th and partners throughout the city to help Philadelphia children become strong, joyful readers. For ASAP Drama clubs serving students in grades K-3, this has meant pairing traditional after school club leaders – like classroom teachers, rec center staff, and out-of-school time providers – with experienced teaching artists (TAs) to use the exciting, creative energy of theatre arts to develop students’ fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

This partnership model, made possible by support from the William Penn Foundation, has been a great way for club leaders and teaching artists to harness their unique expertise to drive student engagement. For Ryan Pater, the ASAP Drama TA at Welsh Elementary, a community school in West Kensington, this kind of partnership has been critical.

ASAP Drama Teaching Artist, Ryan Pater, leads John Welsh Elementary students in a warm-up exercise

During the 2021-22 school year, the Welsh Elementary club and ASAP Drama programs citywide alike are following an original curriculum called “The World Around Me,” that features performance plays, workshops and in-person and virtual events to explore different aspects of storytelling, including character building, story-setting, and plot development. The goal is that by the end of the year students have a deeper understanding of how to create and construct their own stories.

So far, the students at Welsh Elementary have embraced the opportunity to flex their creative muscles:

And having drama club as a creative outlet has been beneficial both academically and socially for students during this particularly difficult time:

As ASAP continues to prioritize partnerships to achieve program success, we remain fueled by the positivity shared by our programs.

How you can help

So this giving season, we ask that you help ASAP give schools like Welsh Elementary the support they need to help their students shine. We are most grateful for your generosity.

To support ASAP’s work, please consider making a donation today!

Equality, literacy and wellness take center stage in ASAP Drama’s new web series: Who’s H.O.M.E.?

This week ASAP Drama launched its Act II curriculum called: Who’s H.O.M.E?: Helping Others Make Equality a five-part web series designed to help ASAP Drama clubs, teaching artists, partners, and families support the literacy development and social-emotional well-being of younger readers (K-3rd graders) throughout the city.

Featuring books authored by Black and Brown writers, each episode focuses on one of the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, and why) and uses a combination of virtual story-telling and fun theatre activities to help students explore important issues and themes related to equality. In addition, to help students manage the many challenges they’ve faced throughout the pandemic, different social-emotional concepts such as mindfulness and self-awareness are introduced with each episode.

New episodes will be released weekly on ASAP Drama’s YouTube channel and ASAP’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all partners, families, and drama enthusiasts to enjoy!

Supported by the William Penn Foundation, the City of Philadelphia‘s Office of Children and Families and aligned with the Read by 4th campaignWho’s H.O.M.E.? is part of ASAP Drama’s mission to use the dramatic arts to help inspire a love of reading and foster literacy-rich environments citywide. To learn more about how you can get involved with ASAP Drama, contact

Books included in the curriculum

Are you ready for episode 1?

Check out more behind the scenes action!

Would you like to learn more about ASAP Drama or do you have questions about the Who’s H.O.M.E? curriculum?

“Who’s Home?” Credits:

Co-Creative Director & Production Manager
Derrick Ford

Co-Creative Director
Garrick Morgan

Location & Site Manager
Amir Winston

Video Production
BC Directed

Director & Editor
Bryan Clark

Assistant Director 
Joey Augustin

Production Assistant
Zachary Chester

ASAP Drama Theme song; Co-Producers
Garrick Morgan & Blake WintersASAP Drama Theme Song: Lyrics and Vocals
Derrick Ford

Word game enthusiasts, grades K-8th, will attend a virtual rendition of the ASAP Scrabble 101 event on Friday, December 11th (1:45PM-2:45PM)! This session will include interactive activities and competitions for students featuring Johnny Scrabble, Ms. Judy’s Spelling Bee and Read Aloud with Starfire. Students will virtually transition between each Scrabble 101 station, and work towards building literacy and Scrabble skills while having fun.

**TBD: More dates to follow in January 2021