Youth Development

Public Citizens for Children and Youth

  • Philadelphia, PA

Mission Statement

The mission of Public Citizens for Children and Youth is to improve the lives and life chances of the children in Southeastern Pennsylvania through thoughtful and informed advocacy.

Main Programs

  1. Closing Health Care Gaps for At-Risk Kids
  2. Picasso Project
  3. K-12 Education
  4. Early Childhood Education
Service Areas



PCCY works in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area serving the more than 900,000 children growing up in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties and the City of Philadelphia.

ruling year


Executive Director since 2013


Ms. Donna Cooper



Children, Youth, advocacy, research, Philadelphia, southeastern Pennsylvania, education, child health, arts education, early childhood education, child hunger, poverty

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Also Known As






Physical Address

1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 6th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19103 1208


Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (O01)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (B01)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (E01)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization

The mission of Public Citizens for Children and youth is to improve the lives and life chances of the region's children through thoughtful and informed advocacy. We also run targeted direct service programs to close health care gaps faced by uninsured and underinsured children and support arts education in the Philadelphia public schools. In short, with one hand, we directly help one child at a time and with the other, we orchestrate public campaigns that influence elected officials to do more for children.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Closing Health Care Gaps for At-Risk Kids

Approximately 33,000 children in southeastern Pennsylvania do not have health insurance, including 16,600 from Philadelphia. Because they don’t have reliable access to see a doctor or a dentist, these kids are more likely to experience negative outcomes such as poorer health in childhood, greater rates of avoidable hospitalizations and higher childhood mortality. Research confirms that children with good vision are more proficient at reading and test taking and have better concentration. Likewise, good oral health facilitates learning and better nutrition as kids are not distracted in school or unable to eat due to mouth pain.

For many kids growing up in economically-vulnerable families that cannot afford to pay out of pocket, the absence of health insurance means that routine care such as an eye exam, new pair of glasses, or trip to the dentist is out of reach. That’s where PCCY comes in.

Give Kids Sight Day - For the last 11 years, PCCY has worked with the Wills Eye Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University, the Eagles Youth Partnership and other partners to provide a day of free vision care for children. Children who fail the vision screening go to the Eagles Eye Mobile to be fitted for two free pairs of glasses, and children with more serious conditions are referred to the Wills Eye Institute for follow up care. PCCY’s Helpline staff also follows up with families who do not have health insurance and helps parents enroll their children in CHIP or Medical Assistance.

Give Kids A Smile Day - PCCY has organized Give Kids a Smile Day, a day of free dental care, every year since 2004. Each year, PCCY recruits 8-10 volunteer dentists, coordinates with schools and operates a “pop up” call center to schedule appointments. PCCY uses registration data from Smile Day to identify uninsured families and offer enrollment assistance from our Helpline staff to help parent enroll their children in CHIP and Medicaid.

Child Health Watch Helpline - Applying for CHIP or Medicaid can be overwhelming, especially for parents who face literacy and language barriers, single parents and parents who have been laid off and lost their usual source of health benefits. PCCY has helped the parents of over 14,000 children apply for insurance or resolve their insurance and health care access problems over the phone and in any language. All of our Helpline services are available at no charge, and PCCY has a 97% success rate of getting applications approved.


Other Health/Disability

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)





Program 2

Picasso Project

The Picasso Project responds directly to the dearth of arts programming in the Philadelphia public schools by offering micro-grants of up to $5,000 for innovative projects that enable teachers to enliven their instruction by teaming up with professional artists. Since the Picasso Project was launched in 2002, over 30,000 students have created 121 original projects guided by 535 teachers, 121 teaching artists and 183 arts organizations and community partners.

Too many students growing up in Philadelphia have extremely limited access to arts in the classroom. Currently, there are only 377 art or music teachers to teach 130,000 students across the city. This is not even enough teachers to allocate one art and one music teacher to each school building. The Picasso Project helps fill this gap.

Research shows that this lack of exposure to the arts reduces the caliber of learning by constraining the development of creativity. Columbia University researchers studied the effect of “arts rich” and “arts poor” classrooms on 2,406 elementary and middle school students and found that students with high in-school arts exposure performed over three times better on creativity tests than those will low arts exposure. Students with high arts exposure also scored better on risk taking, imagination and cooperative learning measures. The Picasso Project will promote arts rich environments for 3,750 students by bringing teaching artists into the classroom to help them design and carry out original arts projects..

Each fall, PCCY runs a competitive RFP process where teachers outline their arts education visions. A distinguished committee of professional artists and retired arts educators evaluates the proposals, and grant winners are announced in December. Competition for Picasso grants is stiff, and last year PCCY was only able to fund the top 14 out of 33 proposals even though many more were worthy of support.

Between January and June, teachers collaborate with artists to develop a fresh teaching approach that combines the traditional subjects of history, science, English or math with the arts. The result is improved learning and personal growth that goes beyond the classroom setting. Over 80% of adult respondents surveyed said the 2014 Picasso Project had a positive or extremely positive impact on student behavior, cooperation, school climate and student interest in the arts.

Throughout the entire year, PCCY serves as a skilled intermediary that brings 100% of funded projects to fruition. With 12 years experience, we know how to navigate the bureaucracy of the Philadelphia School District and help resident artists satisfy mandated insurance requirements and obtain proper security clearances. We also offer strong fiduciary oversight to ensure that funds are spent properly and that all projects are completed on time.


Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)





Program 3

K-12 Education

The goal of PCCY’s education advocacy is to ensure that the region’s children arrive at school ready to learn and attend schools that provide a high quality education. We start by increasing civic engagement by informing the parents, neighbors, civic and business leaders and elected officials of the key issues by presenting highly localized data about conditions in individual school districts, including funding and academic performance.

We also create opportunities for parents and other citizens to mobilize and take action. For example, on the first day of school, we held a 7 hour “Read-In” in front of the Bellevue where parents, elected officials, and other concerned citizens took turns reading excerpts from 4,000 letters that students sent Governor Corbett explaining the impact of the budget cuts on their schools and their studies. Ten media outlets, including the three major broadcast networks, covered the Read-In. We also work with other organizations to build coalitions across the city, region and state to advocate for smarter policies to improve educational opportunities and outcomes.

Major activities in PCCY’s education work program for the coming include:

• Executing an effective field operation in southeastern Pennsylvania to educate parents and other key stakeholders and build support for a Fair School Funding Formula
• Supporting the READ! By 4th early literacy campaign by evaluating the effectiveness of 2014 summer camp activities and developing specific recommendations to increase their reach and impact in the summer of 2015
• Researching and recommending evidence-based reforms to improve Philadelphia’s neighborhood high schools
• Improving options and outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens to help them return to and graduate from high school


Elementary & Secondary Education

Population(s) Served

Children and Youth (infants - 19 years.)





Program 4

Early Childhood Education

The overriding goals of PCCY’s work with young children are to increase the number of low-income and poor children who enter kindergarten ready to learn, increase access to high quality early learning opportunities for all kids from birth to age 5 and increase the overall quantity of high quality early learning seats throughout the five counties. We do this work both as one of the founding partners of the Pre-K for PA campaign and through additional activities that are specifically focused on programs and policies in Philadelphia.

Major early learning initiatives for 2015 include:

• Push the School District of Philadelphia to continue to expand its leadership role in early childhood education, including working with programs that are not run by the District
• Build support for the adoption of a standard kindergarten readiness assessment
• Continue to lead and support the Pre-K for PA campaign to push for more resources at the state level so that every 3 and 4 year old child has access to affordable, high quality pre-k programs
• Expand full-day kindergarten in suburban school districts

Approximately 83,000 children ages 3-4 without access to publicly funded high quality pre-k will benefit from PCCY’s field organizing and advocacy in the Pre-K for PA campaign. In addition, young children entering kindergarten in city and suburban schools will be better prepared to succeed in the early grades as a result of PCCY’s work to support the implementation of a kindergarten readiness inventory.


Early Childhood Education

Population(s) Served






Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    As a society we know what children need to succeed – consistent healthcare, high quality public education beginning with accessible and affordable early education programs, proper nutrition and a dependable network to help them grow into healthy and confident adults. Today, too many of our children don't have the tools they need to succeed and the challenges families face don't lend themselves to simple solutions. Our goal, simply put, is to create positive change for children. Because PCCY is the only advocacy organization that fights for the whole child, it is committed to systematic reform in multiple domains – from public education to healthcare, from child nutrition to early education.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    PCCY makes change happen for children using a three-prong strategy.

    First, we publish timely research that offers concrete, workable solutions. Example: In 2013, PCCY published a report documenting that Philadelphia children enrolled in Medicaid had to wait 15 days on average for an initial behavioral health appointment through and almost a month to see a therapist. The report concluded with specific recommendations geared specifically for the city agency in charge. We met with the director and her team to go over the research and findings and she agreed to make several changes to help kids in crisis get care more quickly.

    Second, we bring together key stakeholders such as parents, teachers, researchers and community activists to develop innovative strategies to meek kids' needs. Example: In 2014, PCCY helped to plan and launch the READ! By 4th campaign to double the share of Philadelphia public school students who are reading at grade level by the time the enter 4th grade, securing commitments from 50 agencies representing $5 million in new resources

    Finally, we train and mobilize parents, neighbors and civic leaders to build the public will necessary for change. Example: PCCY waged an eight month campaign to clear the way for $100 million in new state funds for schools across Pennsylvania. Mobilization tactics including delivering 5,000+ letters to state legislators and City Council members from constituents, organizing 141 legislative visits with 300 constituents and organizing 41 attention grabbing events that were covered by 35 different media outlets. This campaign successfully educated the public and Philadelphia City Council members on the wisdom of dedicating an additional $120 million in sales tax revenues to the Philadelphia School District, and secured sufficient "yes" votes among state legislators to pass enabling legislation for a $2 per pack cigarette tax to provide additional recurring revenues for Philadelphia schools.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    PCCY's current portfolio is focused on four areas: food and economic security, child health, early childhood education and K-12 education. Key projects include:

    Food and Economic Security – Working with the PA Department of Education and other anti-hunger organizations, PCCY played a major role organizing and serving as the evaluator for the first-ever “Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge." PCCY helped to recruit over 1,100 schools to take part in this statewide competition to increase the number and of children eating breakfast at school.
    Over 9,300 more kids are starting their day with a healthy breakfast at school as a result of the Challenge.
    Child Health – PCCY will continue to help the parents navigate the bureaucracy to sign up their children for public health insurance and expects to enroll at least 250 additional children in 2014. We also will continue to organize free days of vision and dental care with a goal of helping at least 1,250 children who need these specialty healthcare services.

    Early Childhood Education – PCCY is one of the founders of Pre-K for PA, a statewide campaign to ensure that every 3-and-4-year-old in Pennsylvania has access to voluntary, high quality pre-K programs. With two full-time field organizers, the campaign has expanded support in the suburbs among parents, school districts and civic and business leaders.

    K-12 Education – In 2014, PCCY awarded 14 Picasso Project grants averaging $4,000 each to under-resourced schools across the city. These grants enabled 3,500 students to take part in hands-on innovative projects in dance, music, creative writing and the digital and performing arts. PCCY also mobilized thousands of parents and other concerned citizens to advocate for adequate school funding before the Philadelphia City Council and in Harrisburg.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    PCCY ultimately measures the success of our advocacy campaigns by tracking the number of policies that are changed as a result of our efforts, the number of children that benefit as a result of the change and the extent to which children's lives are improved. We track multiple outputs and outcomes along the way.

    To assess our impact on changing the narrative, we track the number of times we are quoted or referenced in the press, the number of times we testify before city, county, state and federal legislative committees, the number of times we testify before the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and suburban school boards, the number of our twitter followers and number of times our posts are retweeted, and the number of “likes" we have on Facebook.

    To assess our ability to mobilize support, we track the number of people who attend our meetings, actions and events, the number of legislative visits we organize, and the breadth of the coalitions we create and join. We also track the number of actions we organize on behalf of our campaigns and the level of participation by parents, neighbors, civic and business leaders and other supporters.

    For our Picasso Project that awards mini-grants to under-resourced Philadelphia public schools to support arts education, we track the number and amount of grant awards and number of students participating. We also conduct an annual evaluation to asses the impact on changes in school climate, student behavior and student interest in the arts.

    For our direct services health care projects, we track the number of children who come to Sight Day for vision screening, the number who receive two free pairs of eye glasses, and the number of kids referred for follow up treatment for more serious eye conditions. Similarly, for Give Kids a Smile Day we track the number of dental appointments made and kept and the number of kids with more serious tooth decay who receive services. For our Child Health Watch Helpline, we track the number and type of calls received and the reason for the call (referrals, health insurance issue, etc.). Most importantly, we track number of applications for CHIP and Medicaid we submit and how many of them are approved.

    For our work to reduce child hunger, we track the number of additional kids who eat breakfast at school, the number of additional summer meals sites launched, and the number of children served.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Since its founding in 1980, PCCY has been a catalyst for significant policy change to benefit children. PCCY's relentless advocacy helped to ensure that Pennsylvania enacted the CHIP program which grants access to healthcare to children across the commonwealth. PCCY was also a driving force behind the Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge that led to 9,300 more students starting their day ready to learn with a healthy meal at school.

    We have also demonstrated that we can consistently and effectively deliver direct services such as free vision care (Give Kids Sight Day was launched in 2009), free dental care (Give Kids a Smile Day was launched in 2004) and insurance application assistance through the Helpline (in operation over 20 years). In addition, since 2002, PCCY's Picasso Project has awarded $462,000 in arts grants to help more than 30,000 children in Philadelphia perform in school plays, create beautiful mosaics for their schools and write and perform songs and poems for their school communities.

    This track helped to establish PCCY as the leading advocate for children in southeastern Pennsylvania.

    While we are proud of these accomplishments, there is much more to do. Philadelphia remains the poorest big city in America, and pockets of poverty are intensifying in many suburban communities. Poverty and family economic instability means that more and more kids are falling behind. PCCY will continue to work to close the health care gaps for the 33,000 uninsured children in southeastern Pennsylvania, push for more high quality education to change the appalling statistic that only 1 in 6 young children are enrolled in high quality pre-k programs and mobilize support for a fair school funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools.
Service Areas



PCCY works in the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area serving the more than 900,000 children growing up in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties and the City of Philadelphia.

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Fiscal year: Jun 01-May 31
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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth



Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2015 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Executive Director

Ms. Donna Cooper


Donna Cooper is the Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), the leading child advocacy organization in the greater Philadelphia region. Before taking the helm at PCCY, Donna was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress where she focused on early childhood education, public infrastructure and poverty research.

Cooper served as the Secretary of Policy and Planning for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 2003-2010. While in that position, Cooper led the development of the state's Cover All Kids program which expanded access to affordable health care to nearly every child in the state. She also led a seven year effort to boost funding for K-12 public education by over $2 billion and designed the state's groundbreaking school funding formula which was enacted in 2008. She also helped launched the state's model approach to investments in early childhood education and increased funding to make college affordable for low income and working class students while creating one of the nation's best systems to ensure that community college students can easily transfer credits to four year colleges.

Cooper was the founding Executive Director of Good Schools PA, a grassroots organizing campaign that successfully pushed public education to be the top issue in the 2002 race for Governor. She also served for three years as the City of Philadelphia's Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning where she designed and led Greater Philadelphia Works, one of the nation's largest and most successful efforts to help single mothers on welfare achieve self-sufficiency.

Cooper has a MGA from the University of Pennsylvania's Fels School of Government and a Master's in Intercultural Management from the School for International Training.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

"The best way to learn about what PCCY stands for is to hear what state and local leaders are saying about us:

“PCCY is a leading voice for children in the City of Philadelphia. Their work shines a much needed light on the struggles our children face and provide informed guidance on how we as representatives and lawmakers can provide better opportunities for future generations." -- Philadelphia City Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez

“PCCY was the first education advocacy organization in the state to meet with me last spring about the state budget and education funding. The suburban and city parents I met through PCCY were well prepared and persuasive." -- Charles Zogby, Pennsylvania Budget Secretary

“There are so many critical needs in the Philadelphia public schools that we need to draw upon the resources, ideas and energy made available from businesses and non-profits across the city. The Picasso Project helps us provide quality arts instruction and creative ways to integrate arts and academics that we could not do on our own." -- Stacy Holland, former Chief of Strategic Partnerships for the Philadelphia School District

“PCCY is a terrific partner. While we provide vision care for children, PCCY enrolls kids in health insurance so they can see the eye doctor and get the glasses they need ongoing. Without PCCY, there would be an immense void; we need their voice advocating on behalf of all kids." -- Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director, Eagles Youth Partnership

“PCCY was everywhere. They were in meetings with legislators. They filled the halls with advocates and they were integral to leading a very smart grassroots push to get the state and city to fund schools statewide and particularly pushing for creative solutions to Philadelphia's school funding crisis." -- PA State Senator Vincent Hughes"



Ms. Estelle Richman


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Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


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Race & Ethnicity
Sexual Orientation

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Diversity Strategies
We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
Diversity notes from the nonprofit
PCCY does not current track demographic information about our volunteers. We have a total of about 475 volunteers a year. This includes approximately 450 people who volunteer for PCCY's annual Give Kids Sight Day. In addition, at any given time, PCCY typically has 5-7 graduate and undergraduate student volunteers from a variety of area colleges and universities.