Building A Bridge Between Campus and Philadelphia
The most recent alumni of the Haverford House Fellowship program reflect on their experiences of the past year, including living together, working at local nonprofits, and creating projects that connect Haverford to local communities.
On Thursday evening, June 16, six members of the Class of 2015—Robin Chernow, Seema Doshi, Kayla Marie, Romi Laskin, Callie Perrone, and Dan Schiano—gathered together for a final dinner as roommates to celebrate the last day they got to spend as Haverford House Fellows. After a full year of sharing a West Philadelphia house while working at local nonprofits, they have moved out to make room for the 2016/2017 cohort of fellows.
Each year, six graduating seniors who demonstrate a strong commitment to social justice through coursework and practical experience are selected for one-year fellowships co-sponsored by host nonprofits in Philadelphia and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC). The fellows work four days a week at Philadelphia partner organizations, deepening their sense of what social justice and volunteer work entail, and devote their fifth workday to projects that engage the College with local groups devoted to creating a more socially just, healthy, and vibrant community. More often than not, these self-designed projects are developed in response to the needs of the host organization or community, but in some cases, subsequent fellows continue perfecting the work of their predecessors.
For her own project, Robin Chernow established and facilitated a peer discussion group for Haverford students that focused on current issues in K–12 education in Philadelphia, such as budget challenges, school environments and resources, testing, and the charter movement. Each day, she would also guide middle school students in science lab activities as part of her placement with FirstHand, an educational initiative at the University City Science Center.
"Engaging in the education field this year, both at FirstHand and through my project, has strengthened my resolve to work in education settings in the future," she says.
Another unique aspect of the program, communal housing, presents an extension of the College's on-campus community, in which participants support each other in tackling the challenges of the post-graduation world.
"Most commonly participants tout this aspect as crucial to their self-care—they come home and can discuss the sometimes heavy topics they deal with at work: homelessness, poverty, other trauma," says Associate Director of CPGC Janice Lion.
Seema Doshi, who helped Puentes Hacia el Futuro coordinate their after-school mentorship program, recalls how coming home to a house full of understanding peers after one particularly difficult day at work allowed the fellows to "be upset about it together, but then also get over it together." In an effort to demonstrate the many overlaps between course curricula and real-world issues her host organization deals with on a daily basis, Doshi also worked with Associate Professor Jill Stauffer to begin the foundation for an internship program for the peace, justice and human rights concentration.
Extensive collaboration with another Associate Professor, Craig Borowiak, was the basis of Dan Schiano’s project too. Together, they organized an event around the topic of solidarity economy that brought Haverford alumni to campus to share their experiences with alternative economic frameworks. For his job placement, he worked as a paralegal for Philadelphia Legal Assistance, helping patients resolve their legal needs that might have a negative impact on their health. Paralegal positions were also held by Kayla Franceschi and Romi Laskin, who both worked for different units within Community Legal Services, a partner organization that has hosted 15 fellows in the past 15 years. Callie Perrone worked at Drexel University’s Center for Hunger Free Communities.
Although what they learned in their job placements will help guide their professional lives, the fellows also walked away from the program with a myriad of unforgettable experiences outside of work, which they wrote about extensively on their blog. And they all agree on one thing: It all starts with getting to know Philadelphia.
"Try as many new things as you can and see what sticks!" Schiano advises future fellows. "Try to meet as a whole house at least once a week. And get the chicken and waffles at Aksum on Baltimore Ave."
—Katya Konradova '19