Winning team case competition

NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program: A Race to the Finish

Note: The NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program is a partnership between NAIOP Greater Philadelphia and Drexel University. The program, which just celebrated its fifth summer, brings together 30 high school rising juniors and seniors of color for a 10-day immersive experience, exposing them to nearly every aspect of commercial real estate. This five-part blog series seeks to deliver a little bit of that experience through the eyes of the students and their college-level ambassadors as well as the faculty and staff of both organizations who work year-round to plan and execute the program.

Chapter 5

Who among us can’t relate to working days on end on a proposal, waking up in the middle of the night, heart racing with anxiety? Maybe there was a moment when you felt your stomach flip or moisture on your hands just before presenting … when you experienced the absolute elation of winning the project … or felt crushed at learning it went to a competitor.

The NAIOP-Drexel participants had “all the feels” when they split into teams of three and competed, bracket-style, in what was, according to at least one student, “one of the most intense and powerful experiences I’ve ever had.”

The assignment was to take a section the Schuylkill Yards project in development by Brandywine Realty Trust, a charter sponsor of the summer program, and create an in-depth case study of 3151 Market Street, a major new life science, residential and retail development from Brandywine Realty Trust (and one for which there are very real plans.) Each team would then present in front of a panel of blue-ribbon judging panels with members from Drexel and the CRE community.

Aubrey C., a rising senior from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, said, “The case study was really stressful.” His team had been developing an idea that they discovered would not work on the site. “Two days before we had to present we had to completely change the program,” including creating a new design on newly learned 3-D modeling software called SketchUp. “The financial analysis was also challenging – we were up really late,” on what he later revealed was his 18th birthday.

In the end, Team NYP, comprised of Meelan Dessejour of Brooklyn; Noah Jones of Rockville, Maryland; and Abu Saccoh of Philadelphia, took home the win. Each team member went home triumphant with a $200 gift card and a certificate.

Placing second was Team JVNC featuring Nicole C. of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania;, and Cyrus Chisolm, Victoire Ehinnou and Jaden Palmer-Waldron of Philadelphia. Each member won a $100 gift card and a certificate.

Placing third and winning a $50 gift card and certificate each were Jeriel Camacho of Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey;, and Ashley Johnson and Nakai Merritt, both of Philadelphia. Each student who competed received certificates of competition and gift cards for the Drexel University Book Store.

For the 250+ members of the NAIOP Greater Philadelphia Chapter, the summer program is a direct expression of their commitment to advocacy, diversity and career development.

The final event judging panels included:

Drexel Faculty/Staff: Brian Ellis, Associate Dean; Jackie McCurdy, Senior Director, Undergraduate Office; Cheryl Renz, Assistant Director, Dean’s Office; Patricia Robak, Academic Director of Real Estate Management and Development Program; and Kimberly Williams, Department Manager & Department Lab Manager, Marketing.

Commercial Real Estate Leaders: Tommy Choi, Practice Partner and SVP, Greenwood Commercial Real Estate; LeaAnn Molineux, Head of Real Estate EVgo; Donald Moore, Head of Real Estate, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Joe Ritchie, Managing Director of Business Development, Head of DEI at Tishman Speyer; NAIOP Philadelphia President.

This year’s sponsors were some of the biggest names in the industry: Brandywine Realty Trust, CBRE, Colliers, Ensemble/Mosaic, Hunter Roberts Construction, IMC Construction, LF Driscoll, Longfellow Real Estate Partners, M&T Bank, MRA Group, Pennoni Associates, Saint Gobain, Tishman Speyer, Ventas and Wexford Science & Technology.

After the competition, when the last student had been picked up, Program Chair Phil Butler Sr., NAIOP Greater Philadelphia board member and senior vice president and partner at MRA Group in Philadelphia, reflected on the 10-day period. “I believe that every student who participates in this program goes home with far more than an understanding of commercial real estate,” he said. “Each has a much better sense of themselves, where they might see themselves in college and the wider world. It’s an amazing gift that this huge team of people is able to offer, and we are excited to see where each student heads in the future.”

One place they may head is into NAIOP Greater Philadelphia’s externship and internship programs. “We want them to continue the journey and expand on what they have learned,” said Sarah Maginnis, executive director of the organization. “The summer program, externships, internships and then Developing Leaders Program (for working professionals aged 35 and under) creates a continuous line from high school to college to career, allowing participants to build on their learnings, deepen relationships with mentors and provide a welcoming entry to a career in commercial real estate.”

Applications for the 2023 Program will be available this winter, but interested students and parents, as well as professionals who want to participate, can reach out to Sarah Maginnis to be added to email updates at

All photo credit to Ralph Oswald III.

  • NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program Slideshow

Read the first chapter, Getting There, about the students’ arrival at Drexel University and how the summer program kicked off.

Read the second chapter, The Mirror Matters, about why having access to CRE professionals and programs as early as the summer before junior year of high school can make such a difference for students of color.

Read the third chapter, Hard Hats All Around, about the value of students participating in project tours and seeing CRE development in action.

Read the fourth chapter, Living the Learnings, about how the program provides real-world experience students can add to their resume.

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