Service-learning and volunteer opportunities enrich the student experience, develop crucial workforce skills, and strengthen the fabric of the community. This year, the College’s Student Government Association organized a food pantry called the Snack Rack program for their homeless and hungry peers. The International Student Association raised money to purchase backpacks for local pupils, Paralegal students volunteered at expungement clinics, and students in Nursing and Dental Hygiene took knowledge of health into local neighborhoods.
The 18th Annual Law and Society Week sponsored by the Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society addressed issues of social justice and social change, as well as contemporary legal challenges.
During the Red Sand Walk for Human Trafficking Awareness on Nov. 22, participants were given bags of red sand to pour into the sidewalk cracks as students, staff and faculty traveled from Spring Garden Street to City Hall, where the event culminated in a press conference shedding light on the local and global victims of human trafficking. The Red Sand Project is an activist artwork created to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Police Commissioner Richard Ross joined students at City Hall along with other dignitaries, and lent his voice to the cause.
Students also were engaged before November’s election in efforts to register to vote, discuss timely issues and make their voices heard. On the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania, the College hosted a significant event celebrating the life of Octavius V. Catto, an African-American educator, organizer and civil rights activist who was only 32 years old when he was murdered on Oct. 10, 1871, Election Day in Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia is erecting a memorial honoring Catto on the apron of City Hall. He is the first African-American individual to be so honored. Mayor James Kenney, who often works at a table in his office with a photo of Catto on the wall behind him, joined Dr. Generals on Oct. 11 to discuss Catto’s life and accomplishments, and apply the lessons of his life to youth movements today.
This year, the College addressed numerous issues that affect the students and neighborhoods we serve through a variety of initiatives.
The Institute for Civic Engagement and Community Leadership started strong, cultivating community partnerships in an effort to increase collaboration on civic issues and achieve better outcomes on problems such as poverty. It is recognized within the state and nationally for its leadership and initiative in the development of college supports for those aging out of foster care. The lack of support and guidance for these youth contribute to the city’s stubbornly high rate of poverty, experts say. The Institute has received regional recognition as being part of the first cohort of colleges in the state of Pennsylvania to formally address the issues affecting foster youth in college. This recognition came through our partnership with the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to hosting College-wide engagements in support of a foster youth campus, the Institute also worked to address young adult homelessness. A national report released in 2017 found that one in three community college students are going hungry, while 14 percent are homeless. The work the Institute is doing around preventing young adult homelessness is channeled through a partnership with the city’s Office of Homeless Services. The Institute has two main, specific goals around this work: first, identify the accurate number of homeless students on campus and secondly, train College staff how to best support this population.
Finally, the College held its first Opportunity Youth Summit with Opportunity Youth United, which brought together more than 100 youth from across the state to discuss the current political and educational landscape, and initiate a call to action around a social justice agenda.
The Reentry Support Project was established in 2010 to foster community reintegration success and has served more than 250 students on campus and behind bars through its academic and workforce programs. One of them, Christian Dennis, is working with his partner, Bob Logue, co-owner of Bodhi Coffee and Federal Donuts, to open Quaker City Coffee, which employs formerly incarcerated individuals.
Both Logue and Dennis recently won a $72,000 grant from shared workspace company WeWork, also known as the Creator Awards. Quaker City Coffee is also competing for an additional $2.5 million from WeWork. Logue and Dennis will travel to New York City in September to see if they are finalists for the award.
“Logue and Dennis are helping to reduce recidivism rates in Philadelphia,” said Tara Timberman, founder and coordinator of the Reentry Support Project. “More companies are willing to support and hire people who have criminal records. The goal is to create career paths for these individuals—not just jobs.”