Honoree Headshot

Marcus Allen

CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1915
Industry: Nonprofit

Marcus Allen has an unwavering dedication to community, helping others, and social justice. Perhaps nothing sums up that dedication more than his coast-to-coast bike ride in June 2021 to support and raise awareness about youth mentoring programs.

Allen and two others rode from San Francisco to Atlantic City in a trek dubbed Miles for Mentoring. The journey raised more than $200,000 and brought 47 new applications for mentors. The final stats: 11 states, 49 days, 3,700 miles, 37 flat tires, 6,000 calories per day, chased by four dogs, and two near-death experiences.

Allen serves as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence. Since 1915, the nonprofit has created and supported one-to-one mentoring relationships “that ignite the power and promise of youth.” The organization’s approach is designed to create positive outcomes, educational success, greater confidence, higher aspirations and avoidance of risky behaviors. The organization serves more than 1,600 children annually in Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey.

“Marcus Allen is a charismatic and passionate public servant, devoted to helping those less fortunate,” his team said. “As a visionary leader with more than 20 years of experience as a nonprofit executive, he has worked tirelessly to improve life circumstances for disadvantaged youth and to advocate for equal opportunities for communities of color.”

Allen comes from humble beginnings, growing up in rural poverty and homelessness in Georgia. Thanks to positive role models and mentors — a police officer and a basketball coach — Allen secured an academic and athletic scholarship to play basketball and study at Paine University. He played professional basketball in Europe for seven years, then returned to the U.S. to obtain a masters degree and devote his time to serving communities of color.

Allen joined Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence in 2013 as the organization’s first Black CEO in its 106-year history. He is committed to reshaping Big Brothers Big Sisters nationally, serving as co-chair of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and as a member of its National Leadership Council.

Allen is an advocate of amplifying social justice and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. His efforts have led to appointments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Pennsylvania and as a Senior Fellow for the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

Allen serves on the board of directors for United Way, Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. He is a graduate of Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and received his MBA in technology management from the University of Phoenix.

“At the end of the day, I ask myself the question: What’s our value proposition? Does what we do matter to the community?” Allen said. “Put another way, if we closed our doors today, would we be missed? I heard a quote that read, ‘If your absence doesn’t affect them, your presence never mattered.’ I want my leadership to matter.”

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Honoree fun fact

In June of 2021, Marcus volunteered to participate in a coast-to-coast bike riding campaign created to raise critical funds in support of transformational youth mentoring programs and bring awareness to 760 enrolled children still waiting to be matched with a mentor of their own.

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