Graduating leaders of the 6B — a coalition of Penn’s main minority student groups including the Penn Association for Gender Equity, UMOJA, Lambda Alliance, Latinx Coalition, United Minorities Council, and Asian Pacific Student Coalition — expressed excitement about their futures as they reflected on their impactful time at Penn.
Penn Association for Gender Equity
Angela Yang, College senior and former chair of PAGE, a student association on campus that aims to promote gender equity and social justice, said the organization opened her eyes to how gender equity is intertwined with other issues such as racism and capitalism, which she said fueled her pursuit of public policy after Penn. Yang is now headed to New York after accepting a position in the Urban Fellows Program, a nine-month fellowship which places recent graduates into Mayoral offices and city agencies to engage in opportunities focused on urban issues and public policy.
During her time as chair, Yang helped advocate for new policies and events on campus such as adding anti-bias training into the bylaws of Penn's fraternities and helping develop PAGE’s first pre-orientation program, PennGenEq. She added that she is not only proud of the work PAGE is doing, but also how progressive and inclusive the organization has become.
Yang hopes people remember her as an individual who positively shaped those around her.
“I hope I’ve touched those around me and have helped them think about things in a deeper or unique way,” Yang said. “I also hope I’ve brought something into their life that only I could have brought."
Hailing from South Jersey, College senior and former UMOJA co-chair Derek Nuamah said one of the biggest goals he helped accomplish was securing $150,000 from the Student Activities Council Reserve Fund for UMOJA. In August 2020, Penn Student Government pledged to donate $250,000 to Black student groups on campus — UMOJA, Makuu: The Black Cultural Center, and the Center for Africana Studies. Due to the large sum, UMOJA was also able to donate to some of its own constituent groups.
Nuamah added that UMOJA has allowed him to build valuable relationships with his fellow board members, as well as with Makuu Director Brian Peterson and Associate Director Daina Troy, both people whom he considers mentors. He also credited the organization for piquing his interests in public policy and public health fields, which he plans to pursue after graduation.
“UMOJA has opened my eyes to the way that institutions of power really operate and has given me insight into resistance, solidarity, and planning for the future,” Nuamah said.
He hopes his legacy at Penn is one of following the momentum of the Black Lives Matter Movement and challenging the University in order to help Black people everywhere — at Penn, in Philadelphia, and beyond.
College senior and former co-chair of UMOJA Martha Gakunju said UMOJA has inspired her own personal growth and enlightenment about how institutions like Penn function, and how they impact their students.
“It's been a really great organization for teaching me advocacy skills and how to also be an effective leader, how to speak up for myself, how to listen, how to present the needs of others, and how to pass the microphone,” Gakunju said.
Like Naumah, Gakunju is most proud of the funding they were able to secure for UMOJA from the Undergraduate Assembly. Now, Gakunju, a Kenya native who grew up in Ohio, hopes to do advocacy work for youth in Kenya.
“Working with UMOJA and working with people has definitely greatly benefited me and equipped me with the skills to do that type of work,” Gakunju said.
As she graduates, Gakunju said she hopes she brightened the days of those around her while at Penn, adding that she will miss having her friends close by and being with people who could relate to her life experiences.
She said she will miss the sense of community she has found at Penn, since she had met many people whom she feels she shared life experiences with. Gakunju added that unlike her experiences in high school, she appreciates how the Black community is seen as diverse and not monolithic.
College senior and former Lambda Alliance chair Bryce Nguyen, who is from Orlando, Fla., will be working in health care in New York after graduation and is excited to evoke change in the industry. Still, he said he will miss the proximity of having his friends at Penn, and his involvement with Lambda Alliance.
Although COVID-19 prevented him from accomplishing many of his goals for the organization, Nguyen said one goal he was able to accomplish was creating a peer mentorship program for queer first years.
“I really wanted to make sure that all the queer [first years] felt like they were going to transition well into the community, and so I wanted to make sure that there was some sort of precedent that they had a place at the gay community at Penn,” Nguyen said.
Reflecting on his legacy at Penn, Nguyen hopes to be remembered as someone who continued the momentum of making meaningful change for marginalized communities on campus.
College senior and former chair of the Latinx Coalition Frances Paulino said her time with the Coalition reignited her passion for advocacy and ensuring the rights of marginalized communities. The organization also taught her how to interact with historically white institutions, which she said will benefit her in her quest to become a public interest attorney for marginalized communities.
“I think being in the 6B and the chair of the Latinx Coalition, you meet a lot of people who are passionate about supporting marginalized communities and giving back to the communities they came from, and I feel like that passion drives me forward, and on top of that, they are all incredible people to be around,” Paulino said.
In addition to working to establish more cultural centers on campus, Paulino, who is from Miami, hopes that her legacy includes her work in the fall of 2019 to transition Grupo Quisqueyano, a former Dominican Student Association, to a Dominican and Haitian Student Association under the leadership of assistant professor of Africana Studies Grace Sanders.
“I feel like a lot of my legacy and my board’s legacy that participated in making that transition lies there and in trying to repair some of the difficult relationships that Dominican vocations have on the islands and even the diaspora,” Paulino said.
United Minorities Council
After serving as the UMC chair for three semesters due to the pandemic, College senior Brooke Price said her time with the group helped prepare her for her career aspirations, teaching her how to take initiative and accomplish various goals as well as how to represent herself clearly and concisely.
Price said she has followed in the steps of previous UMC chairs in pushing for more space for cultural centers on campus, adding that she feels proud of how she helped the organization stay afloat during remote operation.
“We were still able to put on a few events, particularly our celebration of cultures, where we had UMC alumni come back to talk about their experiences as people of color in business and health care,” Price said.
As she begins her career in New York, Price said she will miss her friends and the beauty of campus, especially during the spring. She also hopes that she has contributed to the lives of others during her time at Penn.
“I hope that I’ve been able to positively impact all the underclassmen I’ve met over the past four years and help them avoid mistakes or figure things out a little bit faster than I did,” Price said.
Asian Pacific Student Coalition
After learning more about the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and the diversity of perspectives through her time at APSC, College senior and former APSC chair Sarah Kim said she is now inspired to use film to share more Asian perspectives. Kim said she plans to go to film school on the West Coast, in New York, or abroad.
As she leaves Penn, Kim said she will miss her friends and the free food she obtained on campus pre-COVID-19 the most. She also hopes to be remembered for helping members of the AAPI community at Penn.
“I hope I was able to open up conversations for people to have, especially in the AAPI community, and after doing a mental health event, I also hope I helped destigmatize mental health,” Kim said. “I just hope that people felt that they were welcomed and had a home in the AAPI community.”
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