CSItizen Speaker Series welcomes Wes Moore to Malvern Prep

The student created and led entrepreneurial group brings their second scholarship speaker to Malvern’s community.

Ben Franzone, Friar Life Editor

After years of hardwork and dedication, four ambitious leaders have created a program that facilitates two full scholarships to foster a new generation of ambitious young men in Malvern’s community. 

The premise of CSItizen is to provide high-achieving students without the financial means to attend Malvern Prep a full scholarship for four years of high school. In place of a traditional speaking fee, the Scholarship Speakers are recognized by having one of the scholarships in their name. Through alumni, donors, students, parents and supporters, the group is able to accomplish this ambitious goal. 

With a program of this magnitude, spanning all of the Malvern community, each member of the leadership team has a specific role which adds to the success of CSItizen.

The CSItizen Speaker Series as a whole includes four co-founders as well as sixteen underclassmen divided into four different Impact Teams. Cole Cherian ‘22 is Chairman of CSItizen and leads the Curation and Growth team, Sumant Sharma ‘22 leads the group of Fundraising and Scholarship, Joey Bucci ‘22 heads the Social Media and Marketing team and Alex Hamill’s ‘22 group is in charge of logistics for each event. 

“These kids (impact team members) are students that were recommended by their teachers and they range from eighth graders to sophomores and each of them works on a specific team. Each of those kids will have the opportunity to work on one of those teams and it basically allows us to grow the program and allows us to bring up kids and teach them how to run the program,” Cherian said. 

Co-founders of the CSItizen, Cherian, Sharma, Hamill and Bucci, who have been friends since middle school, have been diligently preparing for their second scholarship speaker.

Moore, a combat veteran, bestselling author and CEO of the anti-poverty organization Robinhood, offers a unique perspective which aligns with CSItizens’ goal of inspiring the community through social impact.

“Wes was someone that when we were starting the program, spring of 2019, that we always had sort of a goal to come speak,” Cherian said.  “He is someone who has had an amazing story, and one of the most amazing resumes, but also [is] just a great person that truly has an impact with all the work he’s done.”

While CSItizen has already hosted two speakers here at Malvern, Moore was the first speaker to have a live audience fill the Duffy theater. 

“We’re going to have an in-person audience of invite only, VIPs, donors, CSItizen scholars, teachers, people like that and then we’re going to livestream it with the help of Billy Mullray into the greater community,” Hamill said. “We’re gonna have a reception in the new Saint Augustine Center and there’s gonna be a little presentation for the event about CSItizen and they’re gonna flow into the Duffy quad [where] there’s gonna be food, then after all that, they will go into Duffy at 7pm.”

Starting with the logistics team, Hamill and his impact team members work on a number of tasks including making sure the stage is set for the event and helping  to prepare the live stream and technical aspects of the event. The logistics team also works on coordinating each aspect of the night, from food and beverages to the lighting and sound.

“I help out in Duffy, with Mr. [Rob] Muntz [visual arts teacher and Stage Crew moderator] and Mr. [Mark] McLaughlin[part of Malvern’s maintenance staff], and my impact team,” Hamill said.

“We reached out to Mr. Muntz in early 2021 and we are getting a CSItizen sign made. I’ve also worked with Billy Mullray ‘22  from the TV studio a lot, and he’s helping us live stream the event.”

With the stage set and each aspect coordinated for the event to run smoothly, it is then up to Bucci and his Marketing team to get the word out and get the Malvern community involved.

“My main goal is through marketing and social media to get as many people as possible. knowing about CSItizen and supporting it and then eventually getting as many people as possible on our live stream,” Bucci said.

“It’s not only Malvern students,” Cherian adds, “he also markets to parents, alums, people outside of the community, our sister and brother schools. It started with the Malvern community but obviously as the series grows we wanted to expand our reach, hopefully even beyond the regional community which is where we’re trying to get now,” he continued.

For Sharma, he and his Fundraising and Scholarship team members work tirelessly to engage donors and Malvern alum, raising the funds necessary to facilitate two annual CSitizen scholarships. 

“I have to engage donors, because in order to fundraise we need these people to obviously be interested in our program,” Sharma said. “We [also] contact Alumni Board members and basically get them engaged with the program so that they can spread their influence and we get more attendees at this place.”

“Another thing I have to do is engage the CSItizen scholars in the event. We want these people engaged with the program because it’s what brought them here, they’re kind of like the representation of everything we’ve done.” Sharma said. “Getting these kids, that are really, really high achieving students onto the campus through this program is the pinnacle of what CSItizen is, it’s what it’s all about. Without these kids we really wouldn’t have a speaker series or an impact.”

Cherian, Chairman of CSItizen, rounds out the all star cast of leaders running this unique program. 

“I basically oversee everything that’s happening with the program and that’s sort of setting the goals for the next semester,” Cherian said. “The chairman role is really just getting these guys excited, making sure that everyone is having the right goals for what their team’s going to accomplish,” he said. 

The Growth and Curation team, which Cherian also leads, works primarily on selecting speaker candidates and making the program sustainable for the future of CSItizen. 

“In addition to the Chairman role, I lead the speaker curation program. What I’ll do is me and my growth team, we will think about who would be great speakers, people with an amazing impact who have big name brand, chache. Part of that is reaching out to them and building relationships with people in that community,” he said.

Another area that Cherian’s team works on is making the program sustainable for many years after the co-founders graduate from Malvern Prep next spring.

“In terms of the growth strategy piece for the program, I would have to say it’s been the biggest piece of my job,” Cherian said. “We’re always looking for areas that we can improve in, or just start reaching into.”

By creating pipelines of speakers and scholars, the team believes it will allow the program to continue its influence on campus and not die out. 

On the night of the event, April 15th, Hamill and Bucci spoke first, giving a brief overview of what CSItizen is, followed by a background of Moore’s career. Before the two finished, they introduced Cherian who then took center stage with Moore to facilitate the fireside chat. Sharma capped off the evening with a live Q&A discussion with Moore.

While Moore captivated the audience with his inspirational messages, Cherian left the audience, as well as Moore impressed with his questioning and poise that he exhibited on stage. 

“Basically what I did was, a month in advance I read his book The Other Wes Moore, I already read it, but I reread it and then also just watching all his different  interviews on Oprah, The Breakfast Club, Aspen Institute on all these amazing things that he’s done, I was able to understand what questions elicited the best responses from him,” Cherian said. 

Cherian even took a moment during his discussion with Moore, to give a shoutout to his mom, who he said helped him prepare for the evening. 

“My parents definitely came in clutch,” Cherian said. “I pretty much just wrote the [questions] down and then was reading them with my mom and dad.”

After holding two events previously, the group made sure to make adjustments in many different areas where they thought there was room for improvement. 

“One thing that I think we’ve done differently is our marketing campaigns; this event is definitely more aggressive and a lot more personal,” Sharma said. “It’s grown a lot because we have our impact team members, but basically we’ve been reaching out to people individually, asking them to sign up and that individual message goes a lot further than just putting on your Instagram story.”

Sharma makes sure to give credit where it is due, adding “I think Joey and his team came up with it so I definitely applaud them for that one.”

“That’s just one piece of Joey’s team, what he’s doing,” Cherian said. “All the people that [they are] reaching out to, other groups they’re trying to engage, I think that’s been one of the biggest differentiators.” 

Bucci and the whole team understand the importance of marketing for an event of this magnitude and have continued to look for ways to improve and get more people involved.

“From a marketing standpoint, I’d say the biggest takeaway for me is, I know what worked and what didn’t from the past two events. We have established much more of a base and much more of a brand since then and now with my Impact Team members, it’s much easier to create content and spread the word,” Bucci said. 

On the logistical side of CSItizen, Hamill also agrees that he has done a few things differently the first two events. 

“I’ve been in contact with Billy Mullray a lot more and we’ve been talking about it and making sure that we have a high quality live stream; he got new cameras for the TV studio which is great. And with the CSItizen sign, I think that is going to help our brand even more during the event,” Hamill said. 

Although the marketing campaign was much improved, that was not the only upgrade CSItizen made to the event. A new and improved set design was used for the event to not only engage the audience, but also to educate the Malvern community about Moore’s book, The Other Wes Moore.

“One of the pieces of feedback we got from the last scholarship speaker event was that our set looked boring, and I even thought so too, it was kind of flat,” Cherian said. 

Even with a brand new CSItizen sign on stage, the group took it a step further to make their set better, adding a personal and educational touch to it as well. 

“Ms. Vithayathil, who’s a family friend of mine and also the eighth grade English teacher had been reading The Other Wes Moore with her students and she reached out to us and asked if we would want to partner with them to do a Wes Moore workshop on a brotherhood day,” Cherian said.

After meeting with the CSItizen team, Cherian said “we basically talked about what CSItizen is, how we can get these kids involved and teach them about Wes Moore. She [Vithayathil] had the idea to create this found poetry and I loved it,” he said. “[We] came up with the idea to have Pieter Schwab ’25, who’s one of our logistics team members, put them onto a board, and almost make a mural.”

These artistic poetry pieces will then be taken down from the mural and sent to Moore, a decision that Cherian feels will be very personal to Moore and something he will appreciate. 

“Off stage I was so impressed by how genuine [Moore] was and how great of a person he was,” Cherian said.“When he got out of the car, he was talking with me and my impact team, a bunch of kids, asking hey, how’s the work you guys are doing, tell me about how school’s going with COVID. And actually, another example of this would be him and Coach [Dante] Coles were classmates at Valley Forge, so Coach Coles was at the event and they talked for like half an hour [after the event],” he said.

When Cherian came up with the idea to start an entrepreneurial-type program back in spring of 2019, he said it was only a very rudimentary version, but after meeting with Mr. Patrick Sillup, Assistant Head of School for Academics, Mr. Michael Riordan and the three other co-leaders, they were able to take this idea and transform it to a reality. 

“The belief in the idea, the commitment to working hard on it and then the closeness of the friendship that we’ve all had now, we’re completely brothers,” Cherian said. “I think the journey has been the most amazing thing that I’ve ever been part of and I think those guys will say the same. It’s been awesome, it’s been fun, it’s been hard, it’s been a very rocky road, but I’m just grateful that we all stuck together and we always kept our eyes on the prize.”

The future of CSItizen looks very bright. They already have their next guest speaker scheduled to come to Malvern, Dr. Reggie Ho on May 19th. 

“For our spring, non scholarship speaker event, we’re going to get a tailgate going, we’re going to try to make it a lot more student focused, so try to get a lot more guys there,” Cherian said. 

Later in the summer, the CSItizen team also plans to have an event that will bring together the Malvern community. They are still in the planning stages, so Cherian can’t say too much about it, but he believes it will be a fun experience to kick off next school year right.