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After months of extensive planning and comprehensive preparation, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness will begin its four-day conference here tonight with the hope of empowering students in the fight against poverty. The conference represents the crown jewel in the University's attempts to increase student participation in volunteer programs and to bring recognition to its efforts to improve community relations. The fourth-annual conference -- hosted in the past by Harvard, Northwestern, and American universities -- is expected to draw over 500 student representatives from universities nationwide. The weekend-long conference will include speeches, panel discussions and workshops that will center around possible solutions to homelessness, illiteracy, hunger, and poverty. Since early this year, over 70 students have worked tediously organizing everything from Dining Service meals to a speech by a U.S. Congressman. The National Campaign along with various University student organizations has been making preparations during the last nine months, including Kite and Key Society, Penn Volunteer Network, and University City Hospitality Coalition. The conference, financed by the Office of the President, Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, and the Student 250th organization, will cost several thousand dollars. But Horwitz said the event will bring innumerable benefits to the University community. She said that the conference should bring an increased awareness among University students about the problems of the homeless, adding that she hopes there will be an revival of student activism. The National Campaign has been working in concert with various Philadelphia community groups, including the Mayor's Commission on Literacy. The groups are expected to send representatives to the conference this weekend. Thelma Reese, director of the Mayor's Commission on Literacy, said yesterday that she hopes students use the conference as a stepping stone to undertaking further volunteer projects. "[Students should] become aware enough about the problems. . . [to] make some kind of commitment toward solving those problems," said Reese, who will be a panel member for one discussion. "The conference should make people aware of the high level of illeteracy which contributes to economic problems of society." According to Colleen McCauley, chairperson of the Penn Volunteer Network, the goal of the conference is to allow "students to sit at the table with people working in the community to see if and how students can get involved." She added that students "will be able to talk to a wide variety of people from the community." The conference will begin tonight with a keynote speech by Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund at room B-1 of Meyerson Hall at 7 p.m. It will conclude on Sunday afternoon with a speech by U.S. Representative Tony Hall, also to be held in Meyerson Hall.

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