Friends’ Central Awarded $250,000 Educational Leadership Grant
Clare Luzuriaga

This prestigious grant is awarded to a limited number of schools each year, and applications are by invitation only. Over the past 30 years, Friends’ Central has received a number of smaller Edward E. Ford grants supporting financial aid, diversity, and professional development. This is the School’s first Leadership grant.

In making Educational Leadership Awards, the Foundation looks for bold new ideas that both address challenges faced by independent schools and promise significant impact on the practice and thinking in the independent school community. “We believe this program is extraordinarily timely,” said Head of School, Craig N. Sellers. “The Edward E. Ford Foundation has always been a singular supporter of excellence in independent school education. To be recognized by them in this way affirms our dedication to our values, our commitment to cultivating leadership skills and courage in our students, and our high aspirations for creating and supporting change.”

We are grateful to the Foundation for understanding that consent education is key to helping young people avoid situations of sexual harassment, assault, and violence and for embracing our belief that the lessons learned in consent education can strengthen a community by adding practices and curriculum that can extend to supporting students’ daily interactions. The practices and pedagogy rooted in consent are, in fact, fundamental to our Friends belief in deep and reflective listening and respect for one another. Their grant to us addresses the fact that consent education is seldom taught in schools and recognizes our unique readiness to lead in addressing this crisis.

Al Vernacchio featured in The Inquirer. Click here to Read.

Friends’ Central will use this matching grant to create a Healthy Relationships and Consent Core team of students and teachers, led by Friends’ Central teacher Al Vernacchio. Together, they will expand education and outreach to our school community and create a model for other schools. The leadership training the Core Team undergoes will serve our community as well as other schools. The full plan includes a biannual Healthy Relationships and Consent conference and a five-day summer institute, both of which will draw on national experts as well as our own student and faculty leaders. 

Al Vernacchio

Friends’ Central has a long history of leadership in the area of sexuality education, beginning with a former head of school, Eric Johnson, who authored a widely used textbook in 1967, and it continues on under teacher Al Vernacchio’s leadership. As we continue to grow institutionally, we are at the forefront of the important and ongoing work all independent schools need to undergo. 

Al expressed his great enthusiasm for the work and for this opportunity. “This grant presents FCS with an amazing opportunity to expand upon the work we've been doing on consent education,” he said. “Ever since the rise of the #MeToo movement, I've been focusing on consent education as a necessary component in our sexuality education programming. That led to a growing realization that consent should not be confined just to sexuality education but can be a guiding principle in creating respectful, equitable, and deliberate interactions between members in a school community.” 

He went on to say, “This grant will allow us to take the lessons we've learned from our practice of consent both, within and outside of the classroom, and offer it to other school communities. One of the things I'm most looking forward to is the development of our student Consent Core Team. These young people will be responsible for helping to develop and implement consent education in other schools. Peer to peer education is an essential element of our plans.”  

It is clear that this grant combines Friends’ Central’s longstanding tradition of developing student leaders, tradition of community respect, and sexuality education. These factors position the School well to support peer schools’ growth in this important area. 

In 2011, Al Vernacchio, a nationally recognized sexuality educator, was featured in The New York Times. He has given four TED talks and is the author of For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way we Talk to Young People about Sexuality, Values, and Health

Friends’ Central’s understanding of excellence includes creating unique opportunities for deep academic exploration, for growth as leaders, and for matching public purpose with learning. As a result, our students and graduates are known for their creative, confident, and collaborative approaches to problem solving. This Edward E. Ford matching grant offers Friends’ Central the possibility of deploying key school qualities such as deep listening, mutual respect, and the importance of both leadership and collaboration to strengthen our School and our wider community.

To learn more about becoming a partner with FCS in the EE Ford Match please contact Colette Kletiz, Chief Development Officer,, 610-645-5076 or Kim Emmons-Benjet, Director of Leadership Giving,, 610-645-4499.


Al Vernacchio featured on Fox29 discussing consent. 

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