On Friday, more than 100 middle and elementary school students from the Philadelphia area learned what it is like to spend a day in the life of a college student.
Throughout the day, the Undergraduate Assembly’s Civic and Community Engagement Committee hosted students from Henry C. Lea Elementary, Leslie P. Hill Elementary and Anna H. Shaw Middle schools as part of a project to motivate young students from low-income households to strive for a college education.
While College Day has hosted only one school in past years, the program expanded this year to encompass the three schools from the West Philadelphia area.
“The Office of Government and Community Affairs initiated College Days in 2004 as a part of the Penn Compact to provide area youth with opportunities and access to Penn, as well as to provide them with an understanding of college life and the many resources on campus,” Glenn Bryan, assistant vice president of community relations in OGCA said. “I started the program based on the personal experiences I had growing up in West Philadelphia.”
On Friday, the visiting students participated in a range of activities that included a tour of campus as well as a mock Management 100 class in which they had to invent and market an invention. They also engaged in a Q&A session with Penn students who discussed their college experiences, before finishing up with a field day event at Penn Park.
For College junior and former associate member of the Undergraduate Assembly Alex Amaniel, who was involved in organizing the event, the mission behind College Day resonates strongly with his own childhood experiences. Amaniel grew up in a low-income household with a single mother, but despite this, he considered himself fortunate since his mother did not give him “any room to mess around.”
“Recognizing that a lot of the kids in the West Philly area had the same difficulties in life that I grew up with, who didn’t make it, who ended up having to work straight after school, has pushed me to be very active in organizing College Day,” he said. “For most of these kids, they’re growing up in low-income families where parents work long hours. There aren’t a lot of support mechanisms in place for them.”
College junior and former UA Representative Chris Cruz, who also helped plan College Day with Amaniel, believes that the program offers students an invaluable opportunity.
“[College Day] is advocating for college access at an early age because that’s really critical for students who envision their future,” Cruz said. “The only way to inspire them to go to college is by showing what college is like and giving them the opportunity to interact with college students and ask them questions.”
Cruz also looks forward to building on this year’s success by expanding the program next year with stronger collaboration with the Office of Admissions, in hopes of accommodating more area students who are interested in college.
The event also provided Penn students an opportunity to give back to the community. Engineering freshman David Kim, who volunteered during the field day activities, believed the entire endeavor represented the values of Penn’s commitment to community service.
“[My volunteering] was just out of a whim,” Kim said. “I saw an email about this and decided to come out. I didn’t know much about it, but it was great that Penn connected with students outside of the University.”