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Mounica Gummadi is only a College junior, but she’s already helped public school biology teachers implement lab ideas in their classrooms. She was able to participate in this community service, she said, because of a federal financial aid award.

Gummadi was part of the first contingent of students — four undergraduate and two graduate students — that Student Registration and Financial Services sent to Washington, D.C. over the summer to make a case for the importance of financial aid. From now on, SRFS hopes to make the trip every other year.

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In D.C., she shared her work in Philadelphia with about six Congressional staffers and explained how it impacted her career goals and her life at Penn.

“We talked about how work-study awards and financial aid help students participate in community service work-study jobs,” Gummadi, who was working as a teaching assistant at Penn over the summer, said. “We were trying to make some sort of impact on how they make those sorts of decisions by showing how students benefit from these resources — not just personally — but we’re also providing the mutual benefit of helping the community that we work with.”

Two key players in SRFS — Associate Vice President Michelle Brown-Nevers and University Director of Financial Aid Joel Carstens — planned the trip. Brown-Nevers had taken a trip to D.C. two years before to meet with representatives and wanted to try again, but this time with student voices.

“She wanted students to go in themselves and tell their own stories about financial aid and to be able to portray how important financial aid is to their success at Penn,” SRFS Director of Communications Marlene Bruno said.

When picking students to tell their stories, SRFS looked to the Netter Center because of their pre-existing relationship. Many students who receive financial aid often choose to work with the Netter Center, so “it was a logical step to reach out to them,” Bruno explained.

Penn’s Office of Government and Community Affairs arranged the meetings with the staff members in Washington.

“It’s important to have a face that is attached to a story and there is no better source of putting a realistic face on a situation than Penn students. So we simply sat back and let the Penn students tell their individual stories,” Carstens said.

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Gummadi’s story started her freshman year when she got involved with the Moelis Access Science Program, a program within the Netter Center focusing on STEM education.

“I work with biology teachers and we do dissections,” she said. “These are things that they wouldn’t normally have access to do without having more students and additional support [for] them and it completely changes their vision of what they’re studying.”

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The program led Gummadi to become further involved in Netter Center as an intern for the Penn Program for Public Service, which is offered to only 18 students per summer.

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“With more student involvement and students being able to communicate with higher officials, it’ll definitely be possible to see concrete decisions being made,” Gummadi said.

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