Many first-generation, low-income students do not have the resources that other Penn students have at their disposal when applying for jobs or internships — but two seniors have been working to make them more accessible.
Collective Success is a student-run nonprofit organization. Penn's chapter of the organization was co-founded by College seniors David Thai and Kamilla Yunusova, and it offers career-oriented resources and programming to FGLI students at Penn, Temple University, and Drexel University.
Since the group was launched in January, organizers have hosted a series of different events for FGLI students and enlisted over 100 professionals for their mentorship program.
Collective Success Board Member and Wharton sophomore Adrian Fletcher explained that the pre-professional, "hyper-competitive" environment at Penn assumes a base of knowledge or a network of connections that does not exist for FGLI students. To provide these resources, Collective Success has organized several networking events, the latest of which took place on Nov. 6.
This most recent event, titled “Landing a Job Outside of OCR," was attended by around 60 Penn students, up from 20 students at a similar event organized last semester, Thai said.
Collective Success has also partnered with professionals from around Philadelphia in a mentorship program for FGLI students to learn about specific industries and gain personalized advice on how to pursue jobs and internships. When the nonprofit first began, there were between 15 and 20 professionals in this mentorship program, Thai said. Today that number is 109.
"Hopefully we're that force on campus that helps FGLI students feel more confident, empowered, and gives them the resources to advance professionally that they might lack," Yunusova said. She added that while existing groups such as Penn First provide community bases for FGLI students, Collective Success aims to focus on supplying resources.
Thai said the "one-size-fits-all" approach to professional development does not work for FGLI students.
"As someone who comes from a marginalized background, I didn't see that size fitting me at all," he said. "It was very much operating under the assumption that I knew what a resume was, I knew what a cover letter was, I knew how to network, I [knew] how to connect to professionals – when in reality I didn't."
Fletcher agreed. "Coming to Penn, I was swamped with a ton of resources," he said. "While a lot of my academic and social needs were being met, I felt as though my professional skills were lacking."
So far Collective Success has chapters at Penn, Drexel, and Temple, but both Thai and Yunusova hope it will continue to expand. Thai said students from Haverford College and Swarthmore College have already reached out to him about establishing chapters on their campuses.
Thai added that even though the programming of Collective Success is currently designed to help students at Penn, the group eventually hopes to serve the needs of all FGLI students in Philadelphia and even across the country.
"I see [Collective Success] as a network that people join when they are looking to advance themselves professionally or don't know anything about competing professionally," Yunusova said.
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