CORA’s Champions for Children Virtual Celebration!
Join us for an fun evening online including raffles, surprise guests, proudly acknowledging some of our most valued partners and clients, celebrating the kick-off of CORA’s 50th Anniversary year and raising money for CORA!
This year’s annual Champions for Children Celebration kicks off our 50th Anniversary by honoring extraordinary individuals and organizations, dedicated to enriching the lives of children and families in the Philadelphia region.
Thank You to our Generous Sponsors!
Charity’s Circle Sponsor
Congratulations to our Honorees!
The Civic Champion Award
Presented to a community leader who has been instrumental in creating a brighter future for local children and families and whose character is reflective of CORA’s core values, passed down from the Sisters of the Good Shepherd –individual worth, mercy, reconciliation, and zeal.
Sr. M. Charity Kohl, RGS
Sister Charity, a native of the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia and one of four children, cared deeply about helping her community. She has been described as a trailblazer and a revolutionary, the architect of an agency with the unique ability to adapt and grow to meet changing community needs. The neighborhood social-service center she created 5 decades ago now, started with the vision of addressing the needs of underserved Northeast Philadelphia. Soon, the center became the standard in the field of human services and expanded its reach throughout other areas of the city.
Sr. Charity was innovative and focused on forming strategic partnerships for CORA. Services grew rapidly as the organization secured contracts to provide psychological and counseling services in the non-public schools in 1973, with educational remediation and speech services added in 1975. Many of CORA’s hallmark programs were launched in those first two decades in response to the emerging needs of the community.
According to Sr. Maria Sowerby, “Sr. Charity Kohl, the foundress of CORA, would have been impressed and very thankful of the way the Good Shepherd Spirit has continued through our lay people”. Today, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary, CORA has more than 400 employees, dedicated to CORA’s mission of helping children youth and families experiencing academic, emotional or social challenges and guided by Sr. Charity’s words, “Children are the Heart of the Matter”. We proudly acknowledge the significant contributions Sr. Charity made to the children and families of Philadelphia and are guided by her vision to embark on another 50 years of caring and compassionate service.
Sr. Brigid Lawlor, RGS, JD
Sr. Brigid has dedicated her career to advancing the Good Shepherd mission. She hails from Reading, Pennsylvania. She earned her BA degree in Psychology from La Salle University, her Social Work and Law and Social Policy Masters degrees from Bryn Mawr College, and eventually a JD from Temple University School of Law. Her earlier Philadelphia endeavors included work in the Germantown section of Philadelphia as a Child Care Supervisor at the Good Shepherd Claver School for Girls and the Good Shepherd Diagnostic Center (founded by Sr. Charity Kohl). She started a Youth Counseling Service in SW Germantown with the Neighborhood Association which served 800 area youth. She initiated the Philadelphia Housing Court Mediation Program in 1982 and went on to found the Good Shepherd Mediation Program in 1984. In fact, along with Attorney Stephen Bosh, Sr. Brigid started the original Landlord/Tenant Mediation Program at Housing Court and was she the program’s first employed mediator who ran the program, trained mediators and did mediation of cases.
While she was Province Leader of the Washington Province from 1991 – 2000, Sr. Brigid Lawlor served her first term on CORA’S Board. In 2001, Sr. Brigid founded the Good Shepherd National Advocacy Center located in Silver Spring. The National Advocacy Center works to change those policies which hinder the work of Good Shepherd programs in the U.S. and worldwide. She’s lobbied for policies that affect Immigration, Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence and Environmental issues.
From 2003 to 2015, Sr. Brigid served as the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. The sisters are located in 74 countries. There are 3,500 apostolic sisters and 500 contemplative sisters with countless lay mission partners. Her role was one of spiritual animation, team building, visiting the sisters and ministries of the countries and general administration.
Before returning to CORA’s Board in 2017, Sr. Brigid taught English as a Second Language to undocumented migrant workers in New Jersey as well as Sisters and lay Mission Partners in both Ecuador and Spain. She works for the Vatican in the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life division. She is a consultant for Religious Congregations. Sr. Brigid is passionate about ministries that focus on child care, social work, legal advocacy and justice. In her spare time she likes to ice skate, bike, cook, play the violin, piano and guitar!
The Classroom Champion Award
Recognizes a high school junior or senior student for his or her notable achievements in the classroom or community. CORA exists to help children and families navigate obstacles – CORA’s Classroom Champion is chosen for having overcome a significant challenge with grace and poise.
“It is my honor and privilege to have worked directly with Harrison. He has received a number of services through CORA and all the staff that have worked with him agree that Harrison exemplifies the qualities of leadership, faith, compassion, optimism and courage, of which Sr. Charity would be extremely proud.” – Caitlin Mede, CORA Drug and Alcohol Counselor
Harrison is a senior at The Bridge Way School, Philadelphia’s only Recovery High School. He receives a variety of services at Bridge Way through CORA’s Clinical Division including case management, counseling and peer support services. After overcoming much adversity, including substance use and mental health challenges. Harrison began attending The Bridge Way School at age 15 and is pursuing his high school diploma in the hopes of becoming a paramedic. Harrison says that his journey and these experiences have humbled him and given him a more positive outlook on life. He credits his success to entering recovery at a young age. Harrison demonstrates patience and wisdom with his classmates and has become a role model to other students in recovery because of the immense accountability he takes for his actions. He is also active in the Alcoholics Anonymous community.
“Jessica embodies zeal, compassion, positivity and perseverance. I am very proud of her personal growth and believe she is an exceptional choice as a Classroom Champion. She has endured many adversities, but did not allow them to interfere with achieving excellent grades and being a positive role model.” – Kara DeVoe, CORA Family Intervention Counselor
Jessica Grabon, recent graduate of the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush High School, is currently a student at Temple University pursuing a degree in Elementary education and continuing her passion for music through an extracurricular acapella group on campus. She describes herself as someone who could never find the courage to speak up until she entered counseling. A victim of bullying, Jessica dealt with anxiety and depression and sought counseling to help build confidence and self-esteem.
Jessica maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school despite battling some negative relationships, emotional hardships and feelings of isolation. Throughout high school, Jesssica also volunteered as a mentor and tutor for younger children and worked, through the Work Ready program, at summer camps and Sky Zone, building skills for her future career as a teacher.
“After some time in therapy through CORA, I learned the art of “assertive language,” which allowed me to not worry so much about what I had to say, just how I said it … taking the next step of learning to speak assertively directly to people, led to a tremendous improvement in my quality of life. I learned that I was not alone. I needed to speak up. Not just for myself, but for everyone who felt disrespected with me.”
“I had the pleasure of teaching Mariame and found her curious, dependable and hardworking, however, it is outside of the classroom where I have seen the most growth in Mariame. As the founder and president of Stressed Out Students (SOS), Mariame has given back significantly to her fellow students and community.” -Traci Albuck, Central High School Teacher and Sponsor of S.O.S
“I created the student group Stressed Out Students (SOS) because I realized students needed a safe space where those who felt burdened by life could gather, cry, laugh, yell if needed, and most importantly, feel supported.”
According to Mariame Sissoko, 2020 graduate of Central High School and freshman at Barnard College, the high school students she encountered, herself included, needed a healthy way to address their stressors and gain better awareness of the importance of mental health. Following the suicides of 2 fellow students, Mariame founded Stressed Out Students (SOS), an afterschool club that provides a judgement-free zone for students to bond and vent once a week about whatever is on their mind. The group made posters to hang up in the hallways at school to promote mental health awareness and to let other students know they aren’t alone.
Under her leadership the group raised $1,000 by selling care packages for students during exam week and donated the proceeds to CORA. Mariame looked up local organizations and decided to give the money to CORA so that they could use it for clients, seeking mental health support, but experiencing financial hardships. “Maybe helping take the stress of off a person struggling for bus fare to get to their counseling session or unable to pay a copay would help them off the ledge.”
Mariame’s former algebra teacher and SOS advisor, Tracy Albuck, described Mariame as focused, mature and not only very aware of the difference between right and wrong, but also unhesitant to speak up for injustices. Many of Mariame’s peers found solace in the group she started and future students will continue to benefit from the legacy she started.
The Corporate Champion Award
Presented to an individual or organization who has shown a commitment to meeting the needs of young people in the Philadelphia community, by facilitating connections for resources that support CORA’s mission – to support children and families facing academic, emotional or social challenges.
John J. Coyle, 4th-Henderson Group
John Coyle, originally from Newtown Square, PA, resides in Wilmington, DE with his wife Heather and teenage daughter Caroline. John is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s Preparatory High School, Georgetown University, (BSBA), Widener University School of Law (JD) and Johns Hopkins University (MS – Real Estate).
The Henderson Group, Philadelphia’s premier provider of flexible workplace solutions, is a full-service commercial real estate development company with more than 90 years of experience – dedicated to delivering unparalleled service to clients and their employees. As Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Coyle advises the officers of the Henderson Group on all aspects of the company’s business, and maintains strategic relationships with special outside counsel on the company’s behalf. The Henderson Group is committed to positively contributing to the communities in which they operate by acting as a good corporate citizen and donating time and resources to philanthropic endeavors. Henderson’s company values are evident in Coyle, who exudes passionate commitment to responsible leadership.
John stepped into the role of CORA’s Board Chair in January of 2020 preceding the COVID-19 crisis. His patience, guidance and wise leadership helped CORA safeguard more than 350 employees despite government mandated shut downs and much uncertainty. CORA is grateful for the time, energy and resources he has committed to the advancing the agency’s mission.
Valentine Brown- Duane Morris, LLP
Previously, in conjunction with international Conflict Resolution Day, the Good Shepherd Mediation Program honored individuals who had been instrumental in encouraging peace and social justice in Philadelphia and named them Shepherds of Peace. Valentine Brown and Duane Morris are truly great examples of Shepherds of Peace.
This year, as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary and welcome Good Shepherd Mediation to the CORA Services family, we will honor Valentine A. Brown & Duane Morris for championing the important work of GSMP. In addition to assisting with the leadership transition, Brown and Duane Morris have supported the Landlord Tenant Mediation program which has been an increasingly relevant project as a result of the pandemic.
Valentine A. Brown is a graduate of the University of Delaware (B.A. Languages) and the University of Baltimore School Law (J.D.). She is the Pro Bono Partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group. She serves as global immigration law counsel to a diverse group of multi-national and domestic corporations and their employees, providing advice, compliance audits and representation to help navigate the intricacies of US and foreign immigration laws. Ms. Brown also represents individuals in all types of immigration proceedings, including persons of extraordinary ability; spouses, fiancées and children of US citizens; naturalization and political asylum applicants; as well as respondents in deportation and immigration appellate proceedings.
The thousands of pro bono hours of legal service donated by Duane Morris attorneys is to be commended. Their representation of often-marginalized groups, such as survivors of trafficking and domestic violence, demonstrates their compassion and aligns perfectly with the Good Shepherd Mission.