Photos courtesy of Ralph Lauren | Photographer Sharif Hamza
One wouldn’t consider West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the sport of polo to be synonymous, yet the sport of kings prevails at Fairmount Park’s Chamounix Equestrian Stables, situated on the outskirts of this part of the city’s gritty urban landscape.
The lure of the sport draws at-risk kids traveling via bikes, foot, and public transportation to the Work to Ride program, an educational non-profit founded in 1994 by Lezlie Hiner, a tenacious woman with a passion for horses and a vision to teach inner-city kids to ride, play polo, and succeed in life. The program offers children the opportunity not only to learn the sport of polo—but to excel at it.
In an exciting campaign, Ralph Lauren supports the Work to Ride foundation with a grant that will directly fund collegiate scholarships for the program’s high school athletes. Several of the alumni who are featured in the Ralph Lauren men’s Work to Ride campaign have completed college, traveled the world, and developed into world-class polo players.
On the ground, there are also invaluable life lessons to be learned. The participating athletes are given tasks one day a week, which encompass caring for the horses and keeping the stables in order. They receive a stipend for doing so while keeping their grades up.
Additionally, the program offers after-school tutoring, summer camp scholarships, and other success-oriented initiatives. “We want them to get good grades; we want to expose them to a wider world, provide them with as much opportunity as we can, and introduce them to as many new things, within our power, that we can,” says Hiner.
Just five years after its founding, Work to Ride’s high school players made history as the nation’s first competitive polo team comprised entirely of African American athletes.
The program, which now has a class of approximately 60 athletes of all ages and backgrounds, has since won both regional and national titles at the prestigious Interscholastic Polo Championship—a testament to the degree of talent and dedication that Work to Ride fosters.