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Rawlin Rosario, a senior at Penn, received an MLK award for his involvement in the community and has worked on social change in urban communities. Credit: Alice Ren , Alice Ren

The Penn bubble can't keep College senior Rawlin Rosario from reaching out into the West Philadelphia community.

In January, Rosario was recognized for his work in the community through the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Student Award for Community Involvement. He was nominated by Program Coordinator of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Kenny Jones, who has been a mentor and Greek advisor to Rosario, a member of Lambda Upsilon Lambda. 

Rosario said the award "has humbled me and inspired me because sometimes it gets overwhelming" to balance his community involvement, academics and extracurriculars. Rosario is involved in the Latino Honor Society, club baseball, Makuu and La Casa Latina, among other organizations.

Rosario grew up in a community where going to college wasn’t expected, especially going to a prestigious university like Penn. Rosario is the first in his family to go to college, and he has spent time at Penn inspiring young men from Philadelphia that they can make it to college too through the program "Man of the House." Rosario and other Penn students help boys ages 10-15 with life decisions from how to be professional to how to talk to girls. 

Rosario also had the opportunity to work hands-on in the community with Habitat for Humanity. He spent his spare time painting, pulling weeds and cleaning up in order to help others. “When you invest in the community you get a lot out of it,” Rosario said.

Rosario also said that the MLK Award has helped to reinforce the importance of reaching out to others and forming a community.

In fact, the community at Penn is what inspired Rosario to apply. He knew that he wanted to come to Penn since his junior year in high school after a visit to the campus with a local outreach group. He was drawn in by the vibrant community and felt immediately inspired.

Through hard work in high school and determination to do well, Rosario proved that he was Penn material. He came to Penn expecting to focus on school and work towards becoming a lawyer.

Throughout his time at Penn, Rosario has made an impact on the community on campus as well. Through his involvement in the dance group Onda Latina, he has been able to express his Dominican heritage and create meaningful connections with the community. 

“Rawlin is one of the hardest working men I know, and I've seen that since freshmen year. Whether it's serving as a board member in Onda or choreographing a piece together, Rawlin puts 110 percent into everything he does and is incredibly determined, passionate and dedicated,” Wharton senior and Onda Latina member Alexandria Wiggins said.

Before joining the dance troop, Rosario said he had never danced in a group before. But after four years with the group, Rosario just wrapped up his last show a couple weeks ago.

Rosario feels that he has left his mark on Penn, and that Penn has left its mark on him as well. He encourages young Penn students to follow their passions and try new things.

“As an elder I see in Rawlin the reflection that no matter how challenging our world becomes, there will always be those individuals who will prioritize in their lives the wellbeing of others and the possibility of a better world ahead,” Director of La Casa Latina Johnny Irizarry said.

Rosario said he would sincerely miss Penn but will continue his path to becoming a lawyer at Johns Hopkins. There, he will continue his community involvement by participating in Teach for America, a program for high achieving college graduates to spend at least two years teaching in an under-privileged community. 

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