Justin Ennis brings strong Philadelphia roots and more than 15 years championing youth development and equity in public education to leadership position. He will start August 16.
The Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) is thrilled to announce the selection of Justin Ennis as new Executive Director. Ennis joins the POBS team with more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
Among his many strengths, POBS is excited about the tremendous depth of knowledge and leadership capabilities that Ennis has developed from over fifteen years of advocating for youth development. His experience includes innovative after school programming, creating opportunities to lift students and families out of poverty, and establishing strategic partnerships across public and private sectors to build stronger communities and close the gap of educational disparities. In addition, Ennis attended school in Philadelphia and is the son of a School District of Philadelphia teacher. His selection is the result of an extensive search by the POBS Board of Trustees to find a replacement for Meg Wise, who announced in early 2023 that she would be leaving in July.
“Meg leaves some very big shoes to fill, but we are extremely confident Justin will be equal to the task and execute on a vision that will enable POBS and its mission to evolve to meet the changing needs of our community,” said Bob Haas, Chair, POBS Board of Trustees. “Justin’s background and many achievements working with Philadelphia youth make him an ideal fit for POBS, and a potent addition to our leadership team. Justin’s ability to create and leverage opportunities for meaningful change, coupled with his personal passion for impacting lives through thoughtful strategies and strong partnerships, will empower the whole of POBS—from staff and students to donors and other partners.”
Ennis’ journey of serving his community, and youth in particular, began in 2006, when he served an AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) fellowship in Philadelphia, where he was placed at After School Activities Partnership (ASAP). Hired to a permanent position at the end of that year of service, ASAP would provide the foundation of his growth in youth education and development and be the vehicle for him making significant inroads in driving greater equity in public education in and beyond Philadelphia. During his first two years with ASAP, Ennis led the organization’s centerpiece initiative, the Philadelphia Youth Chess Challenge, managing a community of more than 200 after-school chess clubs that served more than 3,000 youth, and in the process gave them opportunities to engage with peers, find their voice, and experience a greater sense of belonging and community. During his past 12 years with ASAP, Ennis served as its Executive Director. In this role he established the organization as a leading voice for positive youth development and rallied a broad network of school, government, and community partners to help close the opportunity gap for Philadelphia youth. In addition to his experience and accomplishments with ASAP, Ennis invested nearly two years as Program Manager with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s Arts and Business Council.
The POBS Board of Trustees also cited as key factors in their decision: Ennis’ hands-on involvement in programs that blend traditional schooling with after-school and out-of-school experiential learning to provide a more well-rounded, more effective youth empowerment model, and the ways he implemented innovations that evolved this concept and engaged Philadelphia community members. As for Ennis, he is eager to leverage his extensive school and community relationships to create new pathways by which youth throughout Philadelphia will benefit from POBS’ transformational experiential learning opportunities.
“I am in awe of what the POBS team has accomplished over the last three decades, and I find a great sense of purpose in building on their mission and connecting many more young people in Philly to POBS’ amazing programs,” said Ennis. “Perhaps what resonates with me most strongly is the POBS philosophy on human interdependence and how we, as practitioners, have an opportunity to cultivate an awareness of our interdependence among the students and adults who participate in our programs.”
“Given the complex challenges society faces, we have a responsibility to think critically about the ways the work of POBS and The Discovery Center can strengthen the interdependent bonds of youth, the communities we serve, and the institutions that support our mission,” Ennis continued. “I am honored and humbled to be part of the leadership team of an organization that is taking the challenges head on with a clear, unshakable vision of helping young people discover new interests and experiences that not only will help them find success outside, but that can truly change their lives.”
Ennis officially begins his responsibilities as POBS Executive Director on August 16.