Engineering junior Amit Pujari and College junior Grace Truong were recently elected co-chairs of the Civic House Associates Coalition. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with them on Sunday to talk about their new roles and plans for the upcoming year, after CHAC’s end-of-the-year retreat.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: What does the Civic House Associates Coalition do?
Amit Pujari: It’s an umbrella organization for community service and advocacy groups.
Grace Truong: CHAC also acts as a bridge between student groups and the West Philly community.
DP: How did you get involved with CHAC?
AP: We joined groups that were a part of CHAC and then we both realized we wanted to get involved behind the scenes to be able to help more groups. I started [originally] by joining Engineers without Borders and then joined the executive board of CHAC later on.
GT: I worked with Penn Speaks for Autism my freshman year and became a CHAC representative for the group.
DP: What does your new role as co-chairs entail?
GT: We are going to act as representatives for meetings of umbrella organizations such as UA Steering, University Council and University Life. We will also take part in “First Thursday” meetings.
AP: “First Thursday” is a meeting that happens on the first Thursday of each month for community members and representatives from non-profit [and other community] organizations to talk about issues in the community.
GT: It’s a good way for us to stay updated and carry this information back to our student groups so that they can plan events around current issues.
DP: What do you hope to accomplish as the newest CHAC co-chairs?
AP: Next semester will be really exciting. We are changing the structure of CHAC. Right now, we have three GBMs every semester. We’re looking to change the structure to focus more on workshops and programming that will be more applicable to our groups.
GT: A few examples of the workshops we are planning to host are ones that deal with working with different age groups, recruitment and retention, and how to work with the administration of other schools. We are also going to push for a Community Service and Advocacy Week, which would give us the ability to spotlight our groups as well as collaborate with other umbrella organizations.
DP: What are other hopes or goals you have for the upcoming year as CHAC co-chairs?
AP: A lot of the changes we talked about earlier came from the staff that works at Civic House. We want to make sure the groups and the new board transition into this new structure comfortably.
GT: We also hope that each of our constituent groups can feel a better sense of community under the CHAC umbrella. Individually, each group does amazing work in terms of community service and advocacy, but as a whole, the potential for collaboration is massive and we hope to foster those collaborations in the future.
DP: How, if at all, has the Philadelphia education crisis affected CHAC and is CHAC doing anything to combat this issue?
GT: We recently hosted an event in collaboration with Penn Political Coalition and UA Social Justice to try and increase awareness of the state of schools in Philadelphia.
AP: [The crisis] affects our groups a lot. Many of our groups go to schools in the city and work with kids there. When there are fewer staff who are able to stay after school and host us, it makes it a lot more difficult to help.
DP: How do you feel about working together and accomplishing your goals?
GT: I’m very confident in our ability to work together as co-chairs. I have a lot of trust in Amit. Through the election process, the board has shown a lot of passion and creative ideas, and I’m very excited to work with them.
AP: We’re excited for the next semester and all the changes that [will] come with it. We hope we can make this transition as seamless as possible.
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