Photo Courtesy of Kamal L. Marell

With one cup of coffee, you can support an organization that provides resources to former foster youth. Driven by the desire to create positive change, Kamal L. Marell, EDU '18, embarked on seeking avenues beyond the traditional classroom settings to empower the community around him, especially young adults who have aged out of foster care.  

"I didn't want to be in the classroom, but I knew I wanted to involve myself in education, in a space that would allow me to have a big impact on my community. And I chose Temple University because of what it means to Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and to the community," shared Marell, a graduate from the master of education in urban education program in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). 

Marell is the Executive Director of Philadelphia's first and only non-profit coffee shop in the city called The Monkey & The Elephant. The organization uses the coffee shop model to support young people leaving the foster care system by providing job training and mentorship. Marell said, "our goal is to create a safe space for those young adults to learn, grow and become empowered." 

The organization offers their participants employment for up to a year and educates them on topics like financial literacy, professional development, housing and more. Their holistic and trauma-informed approach ensures that the young adults are getting resources and an experience tailored to their needs to reach their highest potential. "I'm looking at myself as a community partner," Marell shared. "When I am working with new populations, or new groups of people, I don't go in with my expert cap on," Marell shared. 

Marell credited his experience in the urban education program for letting him understand more about the city's landscape from educational, social and empathetic standpoints. "The program was impactful and instrumental in what I do. It helped change my viewpoint on how I see things moving in the city," he said. "During the program, we didn't only just speak about what schools look like, we also had to think about how society views education, and how education reflects on society." 

Prior to graduating from the master's program, Marell was a case manager with the Community Umbrella Agency, contracted through the Department of Human Services in the City of Philadelphia. He recalled that what he learned in the urban education courses also amplified the knowledge he gained while working with children and families as a case manager. As the program offered both quantitative and qualitative approaches to solving social issues, it gave him and his peers an opportunity to come up with unique solutions. 

During his time at Temple, Kamal had an opportunity to connect with inspiring educators and community partners. The network created within the program inspired Marell and showed him different ways of using his education. In his current profession, he continues to collaborate with various community partners. The Monkey & The Elephant works with a variety of organizations across Philadelphia like the Achieving Independence Center, who also focuses on supporting people who have aged out of foster care. 

In the future, Marell wants to expand The Monkey & The Elephant's footprint in Philadelphia to impact as many people as possible. You can support the organization by visiting their website, donating directly, collaborating or buying a coffee. "Every dollar that we bring into the cafe goes directly to programming and to the employment of the young adults," said Marell.  

The master of education in urban education is now called the master of education in urban education and policy. The program will soon be accepting applications for fall 2024. For more information, visit our website or contact