Closing Reflections: Haverford House 2018-2019
As the incoming Haverford House Fellows move into the Cedar Park home, last year's Fellows offer closing reflections on their year of social change work and community building.
Callie Kennedy '18, Fellow at Puentes de Salud:
It’s hard to believe that our Haverford House time is coming to a close. This year has been so unique and powerful, in large part due to the grounding community we have grown through living and being and reflecting together. It has been a true privilege for me to work with Puentes in education this year, another source of community and love. Engaging in this work has strengthened my capacity to collaborate, listen, and build together to create an environment of learning and care. Discovering within myself that I want to continue working in education with youth/families has been an exciting process!
Within our little ecosystem of Haverford House, it has been fascinating to see how our work is so interrelated. At some point this year, I have gone to everyone in the House searching for a greater understanding of a facet of the work I have done with Puentes through their work experiences - whether that has been asking Jason about homeownership counseling, or TJ about his research on English Language Learners, or Smmo about getting connected to garden education...I have learned to recognize the power of leveraging the knowledge within our communities. I leave this year with gratitude for my housemates, co-workers and CPGC colleagues for so much shared learning and growth. I’m beyond thankful to carry the learning and love with me into my next steps!
Sara Ozawa '18, Fellow at Pennsylvania Horticultural Society:
Being radically passionate about the work one does for a first job out of college seems like a luxury, and so I hold a deep gratitude that this fellowship enabled that to be my reality. It took a few months to hit a consistent stride at my placement, but this in turn fostered a level of flexibility that enabled me to establish habits of being a good citizen - I was able to participate in #OccupyICE protests, attend conferences related to socially and ecologically just food systems, focus in on rolling out programming at Haverford House with the hopes of making it an inclusive community resource, and also allocate time addressing my own health and wellness. This process of finding my footing at work proved to be an important education, in and of itself. As I hit a groove with work, I found myself coordinating visits with gardens and working in PHS greenhouses all over the city. My job was oriented not just around providing seedlings and supplies to community growing spaces, but also listening and learning from the people stewarding these spaces and in turn, helping to inform how the organization could be a more effective, uplifting resource. What a profound privilege for that to be work, and for it to be a valued contribution.
Furthermore, I returned home every day to a house of fundamentally exquisite human beings that fostered a culture of openness, respect, and supportive care. The unique perspectives, honed interests, and hobbies created an environment of holistic conversation, nurturing, civic engagement, and fun. It is wild to think back to last March, when we were just strangers in the depths of deciding whether to commit to this fellowship year and all the unknowns it held… I feel most fortunate that as a result, I have made five lifelong friends.
It is easy to understate how enriching it is to sculpt one’s schedule around their curiosities, passions, and valued community relationships because we are so often whim to the normalized narrative of the 9-5. This fellowship set perhaps a dangerously high precedent for the standard I have going forward regarding my employment and living contexts, and even the structure (or lack thereof) of my day-to-day, but I am energized in my knowledge that working in an environment of respect and horizontal leadership, and living in a house of support, care, and collaboration not only should be a norm, but can be.
TJ von Oehsen '18, Fellow at Education Law Center:
I believe that a day well spent involves working at a place whose mission you believe in, being active and involved in your community outside of the confines of your job, seeking out opportunities to expand oneself, and returning at the end of the day to a house filled with love. Haverford House offered every single one of these opportunities in multitudes and expanse.
It has been a year in which I have had the privilege to meet and work alongside of lifelong advocates and activists who fight tirelessly to make Philadelphia a welcoming place for anyone who calls the place home. My placement at Education Law Center this year converged my two deepest academic focuses while at Haverford, sociology and education. Throughout the year, I was able to hone my skills as a data analyst, researcher, lobbyist, and advocate. Almost everyone working at Education Law Center is doing what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives. That level of commitment and selflessness is infectious, and having such a place be my first full time position drew out all I had to offer and then cultivated so much more.
It has been a year in which I have learned so much more about the depths and vibrancy of the Philadelphia community, one I hope to stay deeply and conscientiously involved in. Whether it was in supporting the Abolish ICE encampment the week we moved in, attending dynamic and astounding panel discussions, book talks, rallies, and local documentary screenings, or spending time getting to know our neighborhood of Cedar Park, my love for Philadelphia grew at most every turn.
It has been a year filled with laughter, inquisition, and unwavering support from a group of housemates turned lifelong friends. Through the rocky transition to post-college life I found boundless encouragement from a group of people whose wide array of interests humbled me and urged me forward. Being able to come home every day and know that I would be met with love was an essential pillar to my growth this year. It gave me the courage to want to do more, to demand more of myself, and I cannot thank these friends enough.
Haverford House is, at its heart, a community building community, and I can’t thank everyone I came across enough for this year. This program did so much for me and I hope to give all I can to the city of Philadelphia in return.
Jason Sanchez '18, Fellow at Community Legal Services:
My time at Haverford House has been one of tremendous growth in so many aspects of my life. After leaving college, you are left in a haze, unsure of where to go and what to do after having given so much of yourself to a space for the past four years. Haverford House proved itself to be more than just a cushion to catch my fall, but the springboard to propel myself into a meaningful future dedicated to the service of others.
Working in the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services has opened my eyes to the difficulties of urban life when you are forced to navigate the incredibly complex bureaucracy that is our public welfare system. While there were days I felt helpless in being able to enact change in the face of these broken systems, there were others where we were able to work miracles and ensure families could stay in their homes. Each day I am inspired by all of the amazing attorneys, social workers, and paralegals who work tirelessly to protect vulnerable families in our community. In just a year’s time, I’ve learned a majority of landlord/tenant law in Philadelphia and I feel confident to stand next to these tremendous advocates. Inspired by the change we can make, I’ve decided to stay at CLS so that I can continue the work I started as a fellow and hopefully have it evolve into a successful career.
Besides the professional development, the communal living aspect of Haverford House has been instrumental in supporting the growth I made. Coming home to a group of compassionate, caring, and loving housemates has meant the world to me and I know that we’ve forged lifelong friendships. While I leave Haverford House with a heavy heart, I’m excited for a whole new group of fellows to start on their own journey of self discovery.