Our Why

Not long after Love Progress Park founder, Jennifer Shiley's, educational career began did she notice, consistently, teen-aged students gravitated toward her classroom seeking a space separated from stress and uncertainty. Shiley recognized quickly it was not additional English homework they were looking for, but restored confidence, encouragement for patching broken friendships, direction about important health decisions, better words for conversations with parents, and recovery from broken hearts and busted dreams. In well-resourced private and public schools to schools supporting kids at-risk of crisis, she noticed the needs were all the same: strengthened resilience, critical life skills, emotional intelligence.

In and around the time Shiley was researching community outlets she could provide as options for her students to pursue for support, her sister Sonny started her two and half year battle with cervical cancer. Sonny, alone with her then 4 year-old son, fought every day to stay alive. Sonny recorded videos, wrote a blog, presented in front of groups, ran races, and echoed hope to anyone who would listen so her circumstance might serve some good. She used all the strength she had left to uplift others. Through her fight and upon her passing, Shiley was energized to establish Sonny's story as a foundation for helping others transform an ordinary existence into an extraordinary life experience.

Paired with Sonny's spirit as a major influence was Shiley's close friend Ace Carter's model of grit and determination for giving voice to underrepresented high school student-athletes in Philadelphia as a writer and journalist. Carter, himself, faced many major medical setbacks after enduring a life-altering car accident shortly after graduating college and experiencing an intense flare of an extremely rare autoimmune condition leading into the Covid 19 pandemic. In his recovering years, Ace's drive for reporting stories about young scholar-athletes not only increased attention on the plights of under-funded areas of the city but also better positioned high school students who worked hard and were hopeful about earning college careers.

Equipped with the inspiration of her sister's legacy and best friend's life work, Shiley committed to giving all she had in educational training, community capital, and acknowledgement of purpose to designing a platform for young people to learn to lead in every area of their lives. Love Progress Park was born to demonstrate the strength to love, help kids in every community develop their individual leadership potential, and become confident together so they can not only face the life in front of them as healthy, informed citizens but overcome any obstacle that may block their path.

Today, Love Progress Park partners with Sonny Carter Foundation to provide scholarships for girls to participate in Love Progress Park programming. Scholarships alleviate financial burden and help make our vision possible to See All Girls Live With The Courage To Lead.
Sonny Shiley's hope through her keynote “Tenacity” at the 2012 Love Progress Park Summer Leadership Project was that young women listening would become vigilant in safeguarding their health and wellness.
Writer and award-winning journalist, Aaron “Ace” Carter covers high school sports giving particular attention to how students’ educational and athletic experiences intersect with life in and around Philadelphia, PA.

Our Timeline

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