When YSC Academy opened its doors in 2013 to its first cohort of students-athletes, it launched a new era in U.S. soccer as the first independent school to integrate an MLS-affiliated, world-renowned youth-soccer development program with an elite level college-preparatory education.
Inspired by the model of Burke Mountain Academy, the first sports-specific school in North America, and by established, professional sports academies in Europe and South America, YSC Academy founder Richard Graham imagined a unique soccer school where student-athletes could maximize their athletic and academic potential. Informed by extensive research of soccer youth development overseas, Graham determined to combine high-performance athletic training and high-quality secondary school education within a culture characterized by passion, hard work, trust, and positive reinforcement, all supported by attention to research and best practices, and staffed by world-class individuals.
Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee was appointed the founding Head of School. A professor of neuroscience at St. Joseph’s University, with a background in research regarding learning and the brain, and with 30 years of experience in independent schools, she was charged with developing the school’s progressive academic program. Her belief that the student should be in charge of his learning led to the design of a program approach she termed self-directed learning. This concept puts the student at the center of the learning process, rather than the teacher. Students are challenged to be responsible for their learning, and, with the expert guidance of dedicated teachers and staff, learn to be the primary agents of their learning.
YSC Academy is the first of its kind, a soccer-specific sports high school, providing secondary education to student-athletes in grades 7-12. The school enables talented youth soccer players of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to pursue their passion to play soccer at elite levels while simultaneously obtaining a highly individualized, learner-centered, and rigorous college-preparatory education. YSC Academy employs a cutting-edge, responsive educational model specifically designed for adolescent learners that honors their minds and bodies and encourages their personal ownership of the educational process. Academy faculty and staff strive to align the latest research in the science of the brain and the science of the body with the end-goal of empowering students to become self-directed learners in the classroom, on the soccer field, and in all life pursuits.
Accredited by the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS), YSC Academy offers a college-preparatory program ideally suited for courageous, and responsible young men. Our students, spanning grades 7-12, have been identified as among the most competitive soccer athletes in their age groups nationally. Our college acceptance record is exceptional, with 34% of our students admitted to highly selective colleges and universities, compared to a national average of 12%. A majority of the students play on the academy teams of our soccer partner, the Philadelphia Union, while 10-20% play on other US Development Academy teams in the area, such as FC Delco. While most of our students go on to pursue a college education and play soccer at the Division 1 level (85%), even our signed players pursue higher education through our college counseling and support program. Regardless of the pathway, helping our students pursue a degree from an institution of higher education is our priority.