In this podcast episode, we speak with former Beat the Streets Philadelphia (BTSP) Executive Director Chris Hanlon. So much of the impact that BTSP can achieve today is due to his stewardship from a fledgling organization to a presence that currently serves 1,000 youth at 30 wrestling programs in the Greater Philadelphia area. Chris embodies the Beat the Streets spirit on so many levels. He is passionate about not only wrestling but positively altering life's trajectory.
It all began in 2008 when Chris moved back to Philadelphia and reconnected with fellow Penn alumni who were starting a new project to serve the Philadelphia community through wrestling. "I enjoyed being on the mat, and I was looking to coach, and it just coincided with Beat the Streets starting up."
At first, Hanlon had no idea that it would lead to a career. "It was just fun," says Chris. "I was volunteering, and I saw it as a way to give back - because I was fortunate all along the way. My coaches pulled me up by the bootstraps and gave me opportunities. And I credited wrestling with a lot of my successes."
At the time, Chris was coaching and driving BTSP wrestlers all around to tournaments and taking them to summer camp. It wasn't long before he got a call from the BTS Board, offering him a full-time position. It was a dream chance for Hanlon to combine two of his passions: wrestling and changing lives.
At the helm of BTS Philly, Chris developed many programs that have become core to BTS Philly today. One of his most significant innovations was helping create the Mentoring Center.
Chris noticed that many students didn't have the proper support to pursue their life ambitions through his day-to-day work. "For some of our high school kids, they dreamed of going to college," Chris explains. "But they were in public schools that were gigantic, and even though they are solid schools, they were one of 3,000 kids. So it's hard to get personalized support."
He knew that he had to do something to help these students. "Oftentimes, they were the first generation to attend college. So I would talk to them about that process. And then, I started connecting them with people that could tutor them. And at first, the mentoring happened down at the Penn bookstore."
"The board understood that education was the cleanest path for these kids to find opportunity," Hanlon explains. "So they said, 'This is great, how can you do more of it?'"
To meet this challenge, Beat the Streets rented a place on Market Street, and thus the Mentoring Center was born. Today it continues to serve 150 BTSP youth and provide opportunities for growth and education. Current Executive Director James Mangan is happy to point out that mentoring is a more significant part of the annual budget than wrestling. All thanks to the ideas first set in motion by Chris Hanlon.
Today, Chris is the Executive Director of Chester Charter Scholars Academy Foundation, where he continues work in the social impact sector. "Beat the Streets definitively set the stage for me to continue a career in this space and try to help as many people as possible. So I have a lot of gratitude for my entire exper