What are you currently doing (career-wise)?
Through the Philly Fellows program, I am working toward completing a one-year Americorps VISTA fellowship at the Education Law Center. ELC is a legal non-profit that works to ensure access to a quality public education for all youth across Pennsylvania. My specific area of focus is working with youth and families experiencing homelessness. In the few months that I've been here, I've been organizing clinics with homeless shelter staff on the educational rights of youth experiencing homelessness, connecting with a large coalition of organizations and individuals who serve homeless youth and families, and just learning a lot about the landscape of services and opportunities for homeless youth in Philadelphia.
What were you involved with during your time at Penn?
At Penn, I was heavily involved with the Penn LGBT Center. I was a work-study student there and really thought of it as a second home. I co-founded Penn Non-Cis, a group that provided a space for trans students on campus. I also served on the Lambda Alliance for most of my time at Penn, working on a lot of different policy, activist, and community-building issues with Penn's LGBTQ communities. Beyond the LGBT Center, I also organized with Penn Students for Justice in Palestine and was a member of the Civic Scholars Program.
How were you connected to Civic House while at Penn?
Civic House was my first introduction to both Penn and Philadelphia back in the summer of 2012. I was a member of the Civic Scholars program, and so I got acquainted with the city and the school through PennCORP. I then went on to be a PennCORP leader in the summer of 2013, and continued to engage with Civic House through the Civic Scholars program for all four years.
How do you remain involved with social justice / community engagement in your daily life?
My social justice and community engagement commitments have shifted drastically when transitioning from undergraduate life to a Monday through Friday 9-5 job. There's a lot less time to engage in multiple communities and areas but I'm thankful that the work that I'm doing every day involves direct engagement with advocates and social justice-minded people in Philadelphia. Beyond my fellowship, I'm volunteering at the William Way LGBT Community Center, but I am still trying to find ways to be more engaged in other communities in the city.
What was something meaningful about your time with Civic House?
Civic House was one of the few non-LGBTQ-specific spaces on campus that I really felt welcome and affirmed in. The staff and students there really go above and beyond in making efforts to bring a diversity of life experiences and identities into their programming, as well as a genuine eagerness to learn. I felt that I could always go to any of the staff for academic, personal, or community engagement advice.
Do you have any advice for undergraduates?
Really make use of the unique opportunities and privileges that you are given as a student! Having graduated, it's a lot tougher to get out there and meet people, find quiet and engaging spaces to do work, and attend affordable events. Penn is full of all of those things and I wish I had done more in my four years there. But ultimately, my experience was a great one and it really prepared me for where I am now.