Final ceremony photo

NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program: Living the Learnings

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 4

“One of the most important aspects of the 10 days is the time students get to spend time on a college campus, learning in a classroom, eating in the dining room and sleeping in the dorms,” said Joe Ritchie, president of NAIOP Greater Philadelphia and managing director of business development and head of diversity and inclusion at Tishman Speyer. “Timing it as they are starting to think about colleges – and what they will study – is very important.”

Another goal is to provide real-world experience students can add to their resume. One afternoon the schedule included a course in using Microsoft Excel and how to create and organize spreadsheets, a skill that would be critical to the participants’ upcoming final project. Another afternoon focused on developing a solid LinkedIn profile.

Student Aubrey C. commented, “The program was everything I expected – and more. I was excited that the teachers would be college level professors, but there were also real titans of industry, including [young people] who were making six figures right out of college.”

He continued, “Our speaker at the final dinner was Jayden Cartwright (who attended the Summer Program in 2021), and he is at Howard University,” where Aubrey is interested in attending. “I connected with him on LinkedIn right after I got home, and he invited me to visit Howard.”

Michael J. DiSanto, NAIOP Greater Philadelphia board member and senior vice president, M&T Bank, has a unique perspective of the program. M&T has sponsored this program for five years, and DiSanto teaches in the classroom, seeing the impact of the bank’s investment firsthand.

“Personally, I have always enjoyed working with younger people. I can remember what it was like [at that age] to be without direction or leadership to guide me and I want to give back,” he said. “On a larger level, I am astounded and humbled by the depth and breadth of the participation of the Greater Philadelphia CRE community. These are top-level folks. Young people can be very apprehensive about these kinds of interaction, and this allows us to allay some of their fears and make them more comfortable for the future.”

On his evaluation, Jahlanie Johnson, 17, a rising senior at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter, reflected on the experience. “It was a little tough at the start to meet new people, but taking that step to let my wall down was worth it. I learned so much and met so many people … and I definitely want to use this opportunity for the future. I have already reached out to Zach Kravitz, assistant project manager at IMC Construction, about an internship.”

So how do you sum up an immersive learning program like NAIOP-Drexel? An intense and highly competitive final project that reflects a “real world” experience – a faux RFP for a very real project.

All photo credit to Ralph Oswald III.

  • Patricia Robak, Academic Lead for the program and a professor at Drexel University, teaches a development course.
  • Jayden Cartwright, a graduate of the NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program and a student at Howard University speaks about his experiences in college at the closing night dinner.
  • A group of students assembles with their mentors to plan for the final Case Competition.
  • Each student was awarded a certificate at a ceremony. Here, Jaden Palmer-Waldron of Germantown Friends School (center) is flanked by members of the NAIOP-Drexel Planning Team and Program Staff (from left), Michael J. DiSanto, NAIOP Greater Philadelphia Board Member and Senior Vice President M&T Bank; Joe Ritchie, Managing Director of Business Development, Head of DEI at Tishman Speyer; NAIOP Philadelphia President; Professor Patricia Robak, Academic Lead for the program; Brian Ellis, Drexel University; and NAIOP-Drexel Summer Program Chair Phil Butler, Sr., NAIOP Greater Philadelphia Board Member and a Senior Vice President at MRA Group.
  • Dr. Brian Ellis, Associate Dean for Academic Programs Administration at Lebow College of Business, Drexel University, greets students at the ceremony.

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 final chapter, A Race to the Finish, about the students’ experience competing in a case study competition.

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