The brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon have launched plans for a long-term mentorship program for students at West Philadelphia High School, in collaboration with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.
Following their first event on April 18, the fraternity hopes to establish a program of monthly mentorship events next year, College junior and President Joseph Pasteris said.
For their first event, about 12 students from the school came to Penn to play basketball with SigEp brothers. After basketball, they went back to the chapter house for pizza and a question-and-answer session with a panel of brothers about the prospects of college.
One of the fraternity’s key goals this year was to expand their community service work, Pasteris said. The fraternity would like a permanent system of regular mentorship events to become SigEp tradition, he added.
SigEp had an “existing partnership” with the Netter Center, College junior and Philanthropy Chair Andrew Shannon said, as the fraternity’s chapter house is occupied by Netter Center interns over the summer.
In October, SigEp hosted a Haunted House event for children from the Henry C. Lea Elementary School. The event was “definitely a lot of fun,” Emerson fellow and 2013 College graduate Kristin Thomas said. “We were looking to have a deeper impact,” however, she said, explaining the importance of the discussions that accompanied the basketball event.
The program will “mesh [the] interests our house has with how we can help the community,” Shannon said. West Philadelphia High School students currently participate in a monthly, informal basketball program at Pottruck, and this program will build on the shared interests of SigEp brothers and the local students.
The new program will work with students from ninth to 12th grade and will focus on student prospects. “We’ve just been through it all,” Pasteris explained. “We know how valuable advice can be.”
The program will build on SigEp’s two principles of sound body and sound mind, he added.
Future events will include features such as campus tours, and Thomas hopes to arrange for the students to see a Penn basketball game, and possibly to meet the players. The goal would be to “show the students that basketball players are also at Penn,” she said, and to discuss how they find a balance between work and their sport.
The program aims to “build a whole narrative,” Shannon said, which runs from pre-college applications to college life and the possibilities beyond that. He outlined ideas for an informal career panel, where brothers talk to West Philadelphia students about what they are planning to do with their majors.
Thomas expressed hopes for the success of the program in giving the high school students “a different spin to what [their] future could be.” While advice from a teacher “could potentially go over their heads,” spending time with Penn students will mean “talking to people just like them,” she added.
The mentoring currently runs on a group dynamic, Pasteris said, but brothers will be discussing the possibilities of one-on-one mentorships.
Shannon emphasized the importance of Penn’s “responsibility to our city.”
“Locust Walk doesn’t have a gate around it,” he added.