Francis Vargas, class of 1990, has made his mark in community development in Philadelphia, improving the city and providing affordable housing for nearly 20 years.
Francis' professional experience spans new construction, rehabilitation, rental, and homeownership development. He currently serves as the Vice President of Elon Development Company, part of the Altman Group of Companies, and has led recent projects including the Montgomery Hospital Redevelopment Plan and Montgomery Park Senior Housing Phase I.
Prior to his work at Elon, Francis served in leadership roles in community development corporations (CDCs) and the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia (RDA).
In the summer of 2016, Francis was appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney to the Board of the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC), Francis was also appointed by Mayor Michael A. Nutter to serve on a Special Independent Advisory Committee for the Department of Licenses and Inspections as well as the Philadelphia Vacant Land Working Group Committee. He is an active volunteer, including serving as Board member of the People's Emergency Center (PEC) and Chair of People's Emergency Center CDC, (PECCDC) Board, Additionally, he previously served on the boards of Octavia Hill Association, Philadelphia Association of CDC's, American Street Financial Services and Philly Green as well as the Community Scholar Committee for Germantown Friends School. He also serves on the Affordable Housing Advisory Council of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh.
How did Francis find his passion for improving the city and the lives of low-income Philadelphians? After majoring in Sociology at Wesleyan University, Francis completed construction management and real estate development course work at Temple University and the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Academy. His education and experience at GFS also shaped his desire to help people and communities.
"Without a doubt, GFS absolutely changed the course of my life. My parents and former teachers worked hard and advocated for me to have an opportunity at GFS through the Community Scholars Program. I arrived at GFS in the 7th grade as a poor Latino kid from North Philly and the son of immigrants, " said Francis. "I was no longer destined to be another statistic about a kid from North Philly. My path would be my own to carve out.
Francis added, "I will be forever grateful to GFS and it's community - it's students and family, teachers and staff. With the loss of my father and then my mother, my teenage years were the hardest years of my life, but the GFS community was there for me. Teachers and staff did not give up on me and supported me during the tough times. My close friends and their families all opened their arms and extended their support."
Francis is now a volunteer for the Alumni of Color Initiative. "GFS and it's community gave me an opportunity to live. I want to help in providing that opportunity to as many people as I can."
Francis lives just outside of Philadelphia, in Springfield Township, Montgomery County and is a dedicated husband to Kim and father of their two children. His interests include traveling, cycling and skiing.