People

Marcus Allen

Senior Fellow; CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region

Marcus Allen is the Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region (BBBS Independence), the Greater Philadelphia region’s largest and most experienced youth mentoring organization, serving children in Southeastern PA and Southern NJ.

In April of 2013, Allen became the first African American CEO in BBBS Independence’s celebrated 100-year history. For three consecutive years, he has significantly grown the Agency as measured by number of children served, revenue generation from donors and programs and overall visibility. This impressive growth garnered BBBS Independence a “Gold Standard Award” in 2013 and the coveted “Pinnacle Award” in 2014 from BBBS America, given to only four affiliates of the 334 affiliated agencies across the country. As a result, Allen now manages the largest one-to-one mentoring program in the Commonwealth and the third largest Big Brothers Big Sisters Agency in the nation.

Allen is a visionary leader, spending much of his time and effort defining how BBBS Independence can have an even greater impact on the over 200,000 children facing adversity in the Greater Philadelphia region. Today’s youth are confronted with deep-rooted issues such as poverty, mass incarceration, youth violence and educational inequality. In fact, there are over 170,000 children in the Philadelphia region living in poverty, with 60,000 in families so poor they survive on less than $11,000 per year. Having experienced both urban and rural poverty as a child in a single-parent home, Allen believes it is the responsibility of BBBS Independence to ensure that every child has an opportunity to reach their highest potential, and knows firsthand that one-to-one mentoring is a major part of the solution. When Allen was only nine years old and in the third grade, he met his lifelong coach and mentor who began to lay the foundation for him to attend college and escape poverty. Allen’s mission is to break these prevalent cycles our youth are facing through ongoing innovation and collaboration in quality youth mentoring programs and relationships.

In March of 2015, Allen spearheaded the creation of the Mentoring Partnership & Resource Center (MPRC), a unique initiative designed to strengthen youth mentoring and communities through collaboration and partnership. Powered by BBBS Independence, the MPRC is designed to help nearly 135 youth mentoring organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania improve their practices through training and technical assistance, stakeholder engagement, advocacy and data collection.

Prior to joining BBBS Independence, Allen was Chief Executive Officer of ACHIEVEability, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit helping to break the generational cycle of poverty for low-income, single parent, and homeless families by providing academic, employment, housing and family support services.

Allen is a respected community leader and sought-after speaker for a variety of topics, including Mentoring, Mass Incarceration, Leadership Development, Board Governance, Economic Issues, Educational Excellence and Nonprofit Management. His op-eds have been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, and he is a frequent guest on several local radio stations, as well as the Comcast Network.

He has received numerous awards, including:

  • Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEO Award (2015)
  • Jersey Man Magazine Men & Women of the Year (2015)
  • McDonald’s Anthony De Luz Black History Maker of Today Award (2014)
  • Philadelphia Life Magazine’s Men of the Year (2013)
  • Philadelphia Tribune’s Top 10 list of Most Influential African Americans Under the Age of 40 (2013, 2010)
  • Inspiration Award from the Philadelphia Alliance (2011)
  • PowerShift’s Community & Civic Leader of the Year (2010)

In 2016, Marcus Allen was appointed to the PA State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by Senator Patrick Toomey’s office. In this role, he is responsible for advising the Commission regarding civil rights and discrimination matters in the Commonwealth of PA. Allen currently serves on the board of directors for United Way, the Philadelphia Association of Community, and in 2013, was appointed to serve on the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity oversight board.

Allen is a graduate of Temple University and received his MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix. He began his college career at Paine College on a General Motors Engineering Scholarship while playing basketball. He is a two-time inductee into the Paine College Sports Hall of Fame (2000, 2014) and played basketball professionally in Sweden, Israel, Finland, and Argentina before moving to Philadelphia.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu