Becoming a recipient of this award means that I am a ‘girl with grit.’ This award rewarded my efforts and motivated me to continue to fight.
— Amy Chen, 2015 Award Winner


The Jill Melmed-Buzzeo Award is an award for Philadelphia “girls with grit.” Our mission is to equip ambitious, resilient young women from Philadelphia with the tools and support to advance their professional dreams.

our approach

At JMB Award, we:

  • Provide financial support to buffer the overwhelming expense of college or other post-secondary school initiatives.

  • Match each student with a mentor who can help her navigate academic, professional, and social challenges through a mix of counsel, encouragement, and connections.

  • Embed financial empowerment into our program so each student can confidently assume stewardship of her personal finances.

  • Surround each student with a strong intergenerational community of women for sharing, advising, networking, and celebrating.


All applicants must:

  • Be nominated by their school principal or the head of a community-based program. Teachers, counselors, and related staff may recommend nominees to their principal or leader (read more about the nomination process)

  • Be a junior or senior at a public (district or charter), private, independent, or parochial high school located in Philadelphia

  • Identify as female

  • Demonstrate persistence, resilience, ambition, and involvement in family, school, or community activities

  • Agree to attend orientation and group training, commit to their mentoring relationship, and serve on the following year’s recipient selection committee 

Preference is given to first-generation students and students with significant financial need. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is recommended but not required. We recognize that life circumstances can affect student achievement. 

The Program

Awardees benefit from financial support, mentoring guidance, and intergenerational events and trainings. We select a minimum of one and a maximum of four students each year.


Awardees receive $2,000 for education-related activities and events or to support other post-secondary school plans. They also receive a $300 travel stipend. 

Examples of activities and events:

  • School fees, tuition, room and board, and books

  • Summer programs for service or learning purposes

  • Professional development training and programs

Examples of stipend use:

  • Campus visits

  • Participation in enrichment opportunities

  • Passport fees for program-related travel

  • Home visits


Our award provides a "high-touch" and tailored experience. We pair each awardee with a mentor who can help with:

  • Preparing for and applying to college

  • Navigating the college decision-making process

  • Transitioning to and thriving in college

  • Managing time, money, and relationships on campus

  • Writing and building a career résumé

  • Networking

  • Personal and social needs

Awardees are expected to commit to:

  • A foundation meeting with her mentor to identify goals and needs, determine how to allocate the financial award and travel stipend, and sketch out a plan for keeping in touch

  • Regular in-person and virtual mentor meetings to discuss progress and troubleshoot any challenges

  • Attending our mentee orientation, summer retreat, service project, winter dinner, and other group outings scheduled during school breaks 

Awardees can also take advantage of:

  • Customized, one-on-one ACT or SAT tutoring provided by our partners at TEACH (available to recipients who are juniors when nominated)

  • Personalized support for writing resumes and preparing for a job search

Financial Empowerment

Our financial empowerment curriculum provides an introduction to sound financial management principles. Our summer retreat includes finance-related sessions of broad interest, including budgeting, credit card management, and student loan debt. On top of this, awardees have access to our financial cheerleader to review financial goals and design a plan to meet them. 



Awardees become part of a growing community of “girls with grit.” Incoming awardees benefit from a peer sisterhood who provide pragmatic and empathetic advice and an "elders" community who opens doors to institutions, organizations, and industries. Our ConnectHer database extends this community to those who, along with us, invest in our awardees’ futures. Together, we fulfill one of Jill’s lessons—that of forming a personal board of directors to turn to for guidance, connections, and support coupled with frank feedback.

Photo by Conrad Benner / Streets Dept