Who we are About Our Teens Brandon Sampson Read My Story Brandon Sampson As a black male from Philadelphia and from the projects, nobody expects you to go further in life. You are expected to be a highschool dropout who will most likely end up using drugs, get locked up, or dead. Level Up made my odds so much better. Level Up taught me how to focus on the better things in life, taught me how to be a man, taught me how to take action and fight for what I want in life. Ultimately, Level Up even pushed me to go to college. My grades quickly progressed from F’s and D’s to A’s and B’s. I even made the Honor roll. After graduating from West Philadelphia High School, I got into Morgan State University where I am currently pursuing a degree in Business and Management. Level Up has changed me for the better and it's only going to keep going up from here. Level up has also changed a lot of our youth by showing them that school is very important. Level Up helps the youth with homework during their after school tutoring program. Most importantly, Level Up provides a safe and fun place with great meals where the youth are encouraged to strive for better and bigger things in life. Today, I am glad to say that I, Brandon Sampson, am a Level Up alumni. Selethia(Level Up Mom) Read My Story Selethia From the moment Pastor Aaron found out what was going on with me and my children, he made sure we found a safe place to live, we were homless and me and my four chirldren were staying in a really bad shelter and through Level Up he got us housing. Over the years, I kept asking my son where he was and why he kept coming home late on Thursdays. He replied "Mom I was at the church building". I said to him "Bakir, you were not at the church building". Turns out the entire time he was really going to the church building where Level Up is! My son is an athlete and is in AP and honnors classes, with the help of Level Up mentoring and tutoring. Level Up is the best thing for our project kids. They have no outlet and are running around the streets. I have seen kids change all because of Level Up. I have seen them go back to school instead of hanging out in the Westpark lobby. I am very thankful for Level Up. I love to see our smart young adults head to church building together and involved in activities that build them up. I am tired of the violence. I want to see so much more for our community. These kids don’t deserve to lose their parents, siblings and friends. Let's continue to help them grow because they are our future! Driipykidd Read My Story driipykidd My name is Dominique aka Driipykidd, Drip, DK, or just Dom . I am 19 years old and from South Philadelphia. When I first heard of Level Up, I thought it was just a party event that happens once a month just like Fresh Empire, but it is so much more than that. Level Up is not just a place, but a safe place to keep youth off the streets. It is filled with arcade games, video games, and more than enough room for people who just need a place to relax, dance, get away from home, stay off the streets, and make a family. I joined Level Up on July 12th, 2019. I came in with my favorite person Deja, only knowing two people there. Deja and I participated in the dance battle during the event and came out in second place. After seeing how much fun I had, I wanted to go back and couldn’t wait for the next party. But then I found out from Deja that it was not only a monthly event but that the space was also open for us to come on a weekly basis. After that I was there every Thursday and Sunday. Then I made friends, friends who became family. Pastor Aaron became my godfather Pastor Aaron and Antioch felt like another home. Pastor Aaron took us to a school in Maple Shade, New Jersey. We performed there and afterwards we went to New York City for the day just to have fun. On April 30th, 2020, my brother was murdered. He was set up, shot and murdered in front of his house on our block. It was the first time I had seen a dead body. After I got off the phone with my best friends, I called my godfather Pastor Aaron and we stayed on the phone for the majority of the night and the next day unpacking what had just happened. When I came back to the church afterwards, everyone comforted me with love. Level Up really is a big family that accepts anyone. I am glad that I decided to go and I'm thankful that my godfather Pastor Aaron took me in, not only as another member to Level Up, but also as family. I will eternally be thankful. Testimonials - Community Leaders “Pastor Aaron has been very instrumental in assisting with the ONGOING VIOLENCE of our Community. He has shown us how to Stabilize the Violence by providing Positive events for the Youth/Parents to participate in. He has mentored the Older Youth by finding out what they were interested in and showing them that GUNS were not the answer.” Ms. Andrea Foster President of Westpark Resident Council(West Parrk Housing Projects) Pastor Campbell has taught them to socialize one with the other and ended gang activity among them, which has saved entire neighborhoods.In short, this pastor feeds them all, cooks for them, and even has them spend time in his home, rearing them to be the kind of individuals that are productive members of our community. Pastor Campbell is one of the most prolific ministers in Philadelphia. Jannie L. Blackwell Vice Chair, Democratic County Executive Committee(Former Member of The Philadelphia City Council for 28 years) Meet The Leadership Team Pastor Aaron Campbell Executive Director Aaron Campbell is the founder and executive director of Urban Dream Chasers, Inc. (Level Up). He is also the founder and lead pastor of Antioch Christian Fellowship. Aaron has been working with teens and young adults in high-risk neighborhoods of Philadelphia for over twenty years—working with gang members, drug dealers, and traumatized or marginalized youth who need mentoring. A graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, Campbell is a proud African-American and Native-American who also does extensive work on native reservations across the country. For his ongoing work in native communities, he was even invited to share at The United Nations in New York City, before diplomats, ambassadors, and the global head of The Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), who was directly under UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Campbell is a member of The Union League of Philadelphia and is a president chaplain of the Philadelphia Police Department, where he counsels officers, as well as builds bridges between officers and young people from high-risk neighborhoods for raw and honest dialogue. Campbell is also an international first responder and has comforted and counseled victims at some of our nation’s bloodiest massacres in recent history. Campbell regularly appears on national and local radio, and has also appeared on national television. Lastly, he is the author of a compelling, coming-of-age memoir, Eyes That Seen Plenty: A Memoir on Race, Class, Culture, and Redemption. This memoir has been adopted into two university curriculums—including The University of Pennsylvania. Endorsed by Dr. Cornel West and others, it is a book that has educated and transformed many. To purchase a copy of Eyes That Seen Plenty, click here (Available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, and audiobook) Pastor Sherman Adams Program Coordinator Pastor Sherman Adams serves as an assistant pastor of Antioch, and the systems and programs coordinator for Level Up. He is responsible for all aspects of maintaining, running, and overseeing Level Up Safe Haven, securing resources, food, and transportation needs for Level Up. Prior to becoming a pastor at Antioch, Pastor Adams worked for 30 years in the retail and fashion industry, including as a manager at Macy’s and Lord & Taylor. He also managed a large, tri-state team at the second largest national satellite TV provider. Andrew Blassingame Safe Haven Co-Lead Mr. Blassingame serves on a part-time basis as the co-lead of the Safe Haven space. He serves as a community engagement partner with experience in behavioral management, college and career counseling, mentorship, and youth development. After supporting Philadelphia’s youth as a mental health specialist for 10 years within the school district, Mr. Blassingame has transitioned into youth mentorship and college and career readiness. Recently operating as a Program Coordinator for a non-profit organization, Mr. Blassingame is currently the Executive Director for Rebel Ventures, a youth career development organization that is partnered with the University of Pennsylvania, where he acts as a professional development coach and program lead for the students and staff he supervises. He holds a MS in Organizational Development and Leadership from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and a BS in Philosophy from West Chester University. Nohémie Sanon Roland Safe Haven Co-Lead Mrs. Roland leads and coordinates all aspects of the Safe Haven space on a part time basis. In this role, she is responsible for planning the food and operational budget, partnering with the systems and logistics coordinator on inventory planning and food preparation. She is also responsible for tracking various metrics related to the program. Mrs. Roland is a Corporate Strategy Manager with deep expertise across the service industry. She most recently worked as a Manager within the Strategic Business Development division of Aramark where she was responsible for evidence-based analytics and strategic insights to support the growth of the business. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University. Jenay M. Smith Tutoring & Enrichment Co-Lead Ms. Smith serves on a part-time basis as the co-lead of Level Up’s Tutoring & Enrichment program. Together with Dr. Williams, she is responsible for all aspects of our Tutoring & Enrichment program, including volunteer and participant coordination, curriculum development and periodic assessment of the participants. Ms. Smith currently serves as Life Skills Development Trainer at Drexel Building Wealth and Health Network in Philadelphia. She has a Masters in Social Services from Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Dr. Joshua Williams Tutoring & Enrichment Co-Lead Dr. Williams serves on a part-time basis as the co-lead of Level Up’s Academic and Enrichment program. In this capacity, he is responsible for assessing each participant in the program, defining the tutorial curriculum, scheduling all volunteer instructors, and overall, ensuring the success of Level Up’s academic goals for our young adults. Dr. Williams currently serves as an Instrumentation Specialist at Drexel University and was previously Associate Professor of Chemistry at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. FAQ Are donations to Level Up tax-deductible under 501(c)3? Yes, Level Up is a program of the fully qualified 501(c)3 organization Urban Dream Chasers, Inc. Donations are fully tax-deductible to the extent allowed under US law. What is Level Up? Level Up is an interventional mentoring program that exists to rescue and raise up a generation of young leaders and world changers amid the gun violence crisis and unprecedented homicide count in Philadelphia. Level Up was launched in 2019 based on 20+ years of Pastor Aaron Campbell and Antioch Christian Fellowship’s outreach to the West Philadelphia community. What kind of positive changes do you see in the youth who regularly participate in Level Up? Our mentorship model, which includes courtroom advocacy, forming relationships with parole officers, and peer-to-peer support, is built on love, commitment, and sacrifice - causing many young people who are comfortable dealing with pain and letdowns to finally start seeing something different and wonderful about themselves. What is the vision for Level Up, going forward? The vision for Level Up has always been to intervene in, and change, the trajectory of the lives of young people residing in Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods. Our current programs and events are all designed to support that vision. Ultimately, our dream is to establish a charter school that will serve the youth of West Philadelphia using the same approaches and guiding philosophy as our current programs. That is, obviously, a project that will require significant support from donors. Want to partner with us to make this dream a reality and impact the lives of precious young people? Click on the Donate button above to find out more! Antioch Christian Fellowship The Church Building Where Level Up Takes Place Antioch Christian Fellowship is a non-denominational church in West Philadelphia that has been addressing the violence in the city for nearly two decades. What began twenty-one years ago as a gathering of three people in Pastor Campbell’s West Philadelphia living room, has blossomed into a strong, multicultural, vibrant congregation. Today, Antioch serves as a community pillar, and hosts Level Up, a safe haven for marginalized youth from the most high-risk sections of the city. Level Up serves youth across our city -- from Kensington and Allegheny (“K&A”) to North Philadelphia, to West Philadelphia. We are wholly committed to bringing transformation to our city: one heart at a time; one need at a time; big picture all the time.