The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

West Philadelphia resident Latisha Turnage needed help.

At 26, she had no job, no house, no education and no prospects.

Her mother Tracy told her to go to a small office building at 61st Street and Osage Avenue, the local home of National Student Partnerships .

There, her mom said, she could find help "to overcome the past with a new beginning," Turnage said.

Three months later, she is in school and has found affordable housing - in fact, she had a job interview Friday.

NSP is a national, student-run organization founded by Yale undergraduates in 1998 that has since expanded to 13 sites, mostly in the Northeast.

West Philadelphia's chapter is run almost solely by Penn students who try to link people in need with resources to overcome the obstacles in their lives.

Those resources, including free access to the Internet, tutoring, on job interviews and student mentors, have proven valuable for Turnage and others facing continuing poverty and a rising murder rate in the area as they search for education and affordable housing.

NSP also offers to help local residents fill out tax returns, search for affordable health care or compile a resume. Many ex-convicts use NSP's services in order to get back on their feet.

"Volunteers work one-on-one with our clients," said College alumnus Paul Vande Stouwe, one of two non-students who staffs the center full time. "They assess their client's needs and work with that person to create a plan to fulfill those needs."

The backbone of the organization is its student volunteers, who put in an average of two to five hours a week working with clients.

For these students, NSP is an experience like no other.

College senior Kelly Asao, the local director of NSP's West Philadelphia branch-, loves the fact that she is able to go into the heart of West Philadelphia and work intimately with those in need.

"We have hundreds of clients every month," she said. With NSP, "students are allowed to do so much more. We're getting to the root of the problem - a lack of employment and education."

Despite the unique experience, Asao said the organization has constant difficulty recruiting student volunteers. She noted that many other community service organizations offer easier commitments

The fact that the office is deep in West Philadelphia doesn't help.

"At [New Student Orientation], you go to that meeting with the Penn policeman who tells you that you shouldn't go" far west of campus, Vande Stouwe said. "It's depressing."

But Asao says the immersion into West Philadelphia makes the experience all the better.

"You haven't really been in West Philly if you haven't gone past 45th" Street, she said. "I only feel like I'm making a profound impact when I am at NSP."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.