What are you currently doing with Civic House?
- I am currently working at the Aquinas Center in South Philly though the Civic Engagement Internship. I have been at the center since last summer and am really excited to continue into this summer! There I work with a group of about 15 teens who come from many different cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages who are all a part of Youth Voices, which is a program intended to empower young people through political discussions, formal presentations, and creative as well as entrepreneurial projects. This year the teens are focused primarily on issues of neighborhood change and teen access to public space. I am also in the Civic House Working Group and have been involved in Alternate Spring Break since my freshman year.
What are your major(s)/field(s) of interest/career goals?
- I am a Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) major with a focus on Distributive Justice. I am really passionate about social justice, and plan to continue to work in the non-profit sector after college focusing on issues of racial and immigrant justice.
What are you involved with at Penn beyond Civic House?
- I am also in the swing dance troupe at Penn. I've learned to West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, and am starting some Blues dancing! It's fun because a lot of the social dance opportunities are in the city, so it's a chance to get to know a small cultural niche of Philadelphia and as well as new people I've danced with in various places around the city.
What do you enjoy most out of your internship/what is your main takeaway?
- I absolutely love working at Aquinas Center. It is a center of so much love and hope. Especially in the current political climate, it is a safe haven in the middle of an immigrant community that welcomes everyone with warmth and kindness. I also love the work with the teens. The work they have done in the last year is critically important in educating adults about the often discriminatory experience of non-white teens in Philadelphia with their presentations at the City Planning Commission and Ethnography Forum in Education Research at Penn GSE. They not only identify problems but also solutions. One clear example is how they are reclaiming blighted spaces in their neighborhood and revitalizing them into spaces of renewal and community building. Working with the Youth Voices has been incredibly inspiring, and we've pushed each other to try new creative ways of engaging with complex issues. I credit them with really helping me to believe in and work actively toward the change I hope to see in the world.
Would you recommend this to other students/how would you encourage other students to get involved?
- I would highly recommend the Civic Engagement Internships. First, I think that often you learn the most when you are immersed in community, and these internships are a great way to connect and work with a different part of the Philadelphia community. You learn about important issues affecting the city and its citizens and more deeply understand social issues. Moreover, there are biweekly meetings with the other interns in which we discuss concepts like power, privilege, and oppression, unpack different identities and share internship experiences. This helps ground our work and encourages us to think critically and reflect on the work we are doing and understand how to show mutual respect in our approach to our work. Finally, the non-profit scene in Philly is really interconnected, and from working in one organization, you end up getting to learn about what other groups in Philly are working on, so it can help you determine where you might want to continue to work or direct yourself toward related justice issues.