Summer Centered: Ben Pham Roodman '22 Helps Ensure Housing Stability for Philadelphians
The mathematics major is helping protect Philadelphians from the effects of gentrification in his work with Kensington Corridor Trust.
The effects of gentrification have devastated vulnerable residents for generations. Ben Pham Roodman ‘22 is working to abate those effects. This summer, the mathematics major is working for Kensington Corridor Trust as a Justice and Equity Fellow, a new program run by the College’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Kensington Corridor Trust, based in North Philadelphia, is a nonprofit neighborhood trust that protects legacy residents of the Kensington neighborhood from the effects of impending gentrification. The organization purchases derelict real estate in the neighborhood to put into a community trust. Kensington residents will soon be able to elect a board that governs the trust, giving the community control over property usage.
“This way, the community of Kensington can determine how their neighborhood develops, and can benefit most from its development, which puts them on more even ground with incoming, predominantly white residents as rent and property values rise,” Roodman explained. “Concurrently, KCT will build a pipeline for local Black and Brown entrepreneurs to establish businesses along the corridor.”
While Roodman’s internship doesn’t relate to his academic work, it allows him to develop certain skills required for service work, such as grant writing, for example. It also gives him the opportunity to explore Philadelphia, even while working remotely from his home in Washington, D.C.
“I hardly ever make it into Philly when I'm on campus and have never been to Kensington physically,” he said. “Most of my passion and work related to poverty alleviation has heretofore been international in focus, through my involvement in the microfinance club, and briefly the activist investment portfolio. I'm excited to spend weekly time in Kensington come fall.”
In his work, Roodman conducts research, applies for grants, produces materials for fundraising efforts, and more. His favorite part of the job is attending board meetings and working with others committed to the cause.
“Since I'm 140 miles or so from ‘where’ I'm working, on Zoom meetings is where I get the most exposure to the people that make up KCT's ecosystem,” he said. “A spectrum of backgrounds are represented, the discussions are exceedingly collaborative and respectful, and the passion that all nine members feel for KCT's mission is palpable.” Roodman also enjoys learning about Philadelphia and the Kensington area from his wise, experienced coworkers.
In addition to developing technical skills, Roodman has learned about the complexities of running a nonprofit organization. He’s witnessed his boss, Kensington Corridor Trust Executive Director Adriana Abizadeh, juggle a handful of responsibilities at once.
“Adriana is a superwoman; she pitches KCT to grant underwriters, takes care of the streetscape, prepares monthly reports for the board, handles all administrative and HR responsibilities, and more,” said Roodman. “I'm glad for the chance to learn through observation what roles are needed at a nonprofit and how they fit together, so that I can support similar organizations in my future career.”
Most importantly, Roodman has learned much about the strategies used to protect communities from the harmful effects of gentrification.
“I've learned strategies for confronting the housing crisis from people who've been fighting for years, through policy-level, business-level, and street-level activism, for the housing rights of underserved communities.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.