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Diva makeovers given at the bookstore

(10/19/00 9:00am)

On Friday afternoon, the girls of Middle Years' Alternative School officially became divas-in-training. The approximately 20 seventh- and eighth-grade girls visited the Penn Bookstore for a lecture by Janice Ferebee, a Penn alumna and author of the recently published Got it Goin' On-II: Power Tools for Girls! Like Ferebee's book, the topic of the presentation was inspirational advice about personal development, geared toward adolescent girls. The potentially heavy theme was lightened by Ferebee's humorous, offbeat approach; for instance, Ferebee likened adolescence to a quest to "become a diva." "Divas have three things in common: They have a positive theme song, they have a prayer and they have a purpose and a plan," Ferebee explained, addressing an overwhelmingly female audience composed primarily of the schoolgirls. "They have the three Ps: They are precious, powerful and purposeful. That's what the divas of the 21st century are all about," she said. Ferebee's own path to divahood is an interesting one. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in fashion retail, which enabled her to later become the first African-American models editor at Seventeen magazine. Her experiences as a mentor to teenagers, however, led her to earn a Masters in Social Work at Penn. Ferebee has gained nationwide renown as a motivational speaker, a youth advocate and a community activist. The lecture, co-sponsored by the African American Resource Center and the Bookstore, proceeded with a recital of the "Diva's Prayer," a rousing paean stressing, among other things, dedication to personal values and an avoidance of pork rinds. Ferebee then read from her book the eight standards of excellence -- such as a positive self-image and intellectual fitness -- which are requisite for divahood. The afternoon ended with a book signing, as the girls eagerly lined up to have their copies autographed by their new role model. "I thought it was really nice," said Phylicia Faison, one of the middle school students in attendance. "It's cool that someone would devote their time to speaking to us. As teenage girls, we need to hear stuff like this."

Students investors prove skillful

(05/03/00 9:00am)

The Quakers may have won the men's Ivy League basketball title, but one of the most successful teams at Penn this year will never earn accolades for athletic prowess. Quaker Holdings is a student investment club started in 1998 by junior Michael Schostak and senior Aaron Fidler, two enterprising Whartonites who refused to wait until graduation to start earning their fortunes. While playing football at home in Detroit over the summer, the two decided to gather friends, pool some money and take on the stock market with their combined knowledge. "But the main focus here is not earning money," explains Schostak, the current chairman of the club. "Our main purposes are encouraging prudent investment and educating our members. None of us are Wall Street wizards, and we're not here to make a quick buck." True enough. But despite the lack of experience, Quaker Holdings has been at the top of its league. With an initial stake of $500 each, the 12 founding members have already doubled their shares. They have consistently outperformed the S&P; 500 and other popular stock indices. And with the current growth of the stock market, the future looks even brighter. The secret to their success? For one, the investors are careful in their stock selections. Their portfolio, which usually contains seven to 10 stocks, has featured high-profile stocks like Motorola, The Gap and IBM. "We're aggressive, but not stupid. We built a solid portfolio with stable stocks. We're looking to invest in stocks that have a significant growth potential. More importantly, we have entrepreneurial, self-motivated, ambitious members," Schostak notes. Indeed, Quaker Holdings is defined by its members. The 18 investors are more diverse than one would expect: They're not all from Wharton. The team benefits because members specialize in areas that best fit their skills. "The engineers are much more interested in technology and they do the research on high-tech companies like Motorola. We have a pre-med that does the research on biotech stocks. And, of course, the Wharton guys use all their knowledge of accounting and finance," Schostak says. The team is thoroughly committed to learning about the financial world, and this independence allows for a more educational experience. In addition, Quaker Holdings is strengthened by its well-organized structure. The Executive Board, composed of several officers who handle the specific responsibilities assigned to them in the club's constitution, provides leadership. The club also plans to change the structure of the Executive Board to encourage more participation and better distribute responsibilities. Quaker Holdings will be headed next year by Sam Kaplan and Josh Luks, both currently Wharton sophomores. The club plans on recruiting new members to replace the eight seniors who are leaving this year, but does not want to expand too much and take on the proportions of the Penn Investment Alliance, a sprawling organization with nearly 100 members. Luks' goals for Quaker Holdings exemplifies the ambitious nature of the club. "We'd like to create a much bigger presence on campus by providing things that other clubs cannot. We want people who are serious about investing, who want to play a significant role in an active environment."

Finding food and friends at Koch's

(02/15/00 10:00am)

The deli, which has served Penn's campus for over 30 years, is one of Philly's best. Go ahead and order a sandwich from Koch's Take-Out Shop and Deli. The next time you walk in there, Bob Koch is pretty sure he'll remember your name. "Not only that, but I know what [my customers] ate and what we talked about," says Koch, the longtime owner of the eatery on 43rd and Locust streets. Indeed, for Koch, remembering your name and knowing what you ate is just as important as serving up the goods that have earned his establishment a reputation as one of Philadelphia's top delicatessens. For more than three decades, the biggest draw at Koch's has been the attention and care the Koch family has extended to its patrons since Sid and Fran Koch became West Philadelphia restaurateurs in 1966. "I know five couples who have gotten married after meeting each other in my deli," Koch says on a snowy Thursday afternoon. "And I've been invited to all the weddings." "I learned from my parents how to relate to people. Just treat customers the way they want to be treated and they'll respond," Bob explains. Most customers, in fact, receive much more than a greeting. As a young woman picks up her ham and provolone on wheat, Bob asks her about her grandmother's recent bout with pneumonia. Conversation often runs beyond chitchat because Bob Koch takes pride in knowing and caring about his customers. None of this is to say, however, that food is unimportant at Koch's. Here the sandwiches are unwieldy behemoths with fresh meats and cheeses, the egg salad is prepared by Bob's mother and the desserts are popular fan favorites. When he discusses his wares is perhaps the only time when Bob is completely serious, even stern. "Bread, bagels, everything comes in every day. And the fish -- smoked salmon, whitefish, lox -- is fresh, nothing pre-sliced or frozen." A customer eating near the counter interjects jokingly, "Don't forget to tell him about the addictive stuff you put in the sandwiches." Donald Zenner, a 1974 Penn alumnus, could easily be classified as the No. 1 Kochaholic, frequenting the deli several times every week without fail. This "resident pseudo-intellectual," as Bob calls him, is a fixture there most afternoons. "And when Bob is flirting with the ladies," Zenner laughs, "I'll always throw in a loud comment about his ex-wife." Koch's extensive menu is eclipsed only by the diversity of the people it serves -- students, police officers, businessmen, politicians and celebrities have all waited in line. Oprah Winfrey and Mayor John Street have both stopped in for a bite. And Danica McKellar, better known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, was also a frequent visitor. "She used to come in quietly for her bagels and lox, not wanting anyone to know who she was. And we'd say in a very loud voice, 'Don't worry, Winnie Cooper, we won't tell anyone." Other customers have driven in from Delaware and other states just to satisfy their cravings. Some jet setters, making a stopover in Philadelphia, have been known to take a cab to Koch's and eat lunch before hurrying back to the airport for a connecting flight. "You can get a corned beef special anywhere, but the Penn special, the Drexel special and the others can only be found here," explains Allan Smith, one of Koch's longtime friends and now an employee. Smith is referring to the 10 sandwiches which are described on an enormous board behind the counter. These are, in many ways, the prized possession of the deli: all are complex, gargantuan combinations of meats, cheeses and sauces. The Penn special alone contains three types of meat, coleslaw, Russian dressing and sweet Muenster cheese on rye bread. The specials' names represent important people -- "The Sid and Fran," for instance -- and the colleges that provide such a loyal customer base. "We had a Wharton freshman. He came in last year and told me that my place was too small, that I should redesign my price structure and open another branch. And he said, 'You have a Penn special and a Drexel special, so where's the Wharton special?' I said, 'Right here. It's the tongue and bologna sandwich," Koch jokes. There's no doubt about it: Koch could easily serve more customers if he bought pre-sliced meats, cut down on conversation and instituted home delivery. But none of that's the point in a local deli where the friendship between customers and owners is so mutual. When Bob's brother and co-worker Lou passed away in 1989, over 1,500 customers sent letters of condolence. These days, the store is almost always packed with eager customers. The wait for a sandwich can last upwards of an hour. "It's like a house party, with the music on and everyone hanging out and talking," Smith says. Koch further enlivens the atmosphere by cracking jokes and handing out samples to those in line. "Hairstyles and clothing change, but people don't," Koch says. "The Penn students are more career-oriented, but they're fun like they always were. I still get invited to all the parties."

Student volunteers help U. City bloom

(11/09/99 10:00am)

While most Penn students were still sleeping Sunday morning, a small group of them headed "into the streets" to make Philadelphia a more beautiful city. The 20 volunteers were participating in Into the Streets, a program coordinated by Baltimore Avenue in Bloom and UC Green, a University-led initiative to improve the landscaping of University City. Along with several neighborhood residents, the students planted bulbs in a flowerbed in the Woodland Triangle between 39th and 40th streets. The project, designed by local resident Michelle Murphy, began on September 18 and was completed on Sunday. The plantings, situated beside a SEPTA trolley facility, were made possible by donations from local arboretums and nurseries, as well as purchases by UC Green. "We're planting exotic flowers and trees from around the world," explained Mike Hardy, a Baltimore Avenue in Bloom official. "Last year we planted Native American plants on the other side of the building, so this should be a great contrast." Work on the area lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., relieved only by a brief lunch break. The Penn volunteers -- mostly students from Kings Court/English College House and La Casa Latina -- said they found the experience tiring but worthwhile. "Beautifying the landscape changes our mental impression of the city and makes living here more comfortable," College senior Andrew Zitcer said. "It also happens to be a lot of fun." Into the Streets has ambitious plans for future projects in the Philadelphia area. More plantings have already been scheduled for next Saturday at Lea Elementary School and Cedar Park. On November 20, volunteers will place a garden in an abandoned area near the corner of 45th and Sansom streets. The projects will continue indoors through the entire winter before returning outdoors in spring. "Our overall vision is to turn University City into a beautiful garden village," said Esaul Sanchez, Penn's director of neighborhood initiatives and the UC Green coordinator. "But more importantly, we also bring people together and create new friendships with the community."

'Fringe' dancers bring art to mainstream audience

(10/27/99 9:00am)

The leading talents on the "fringe" of Philadelphia's experimental dance scene gathered under one roof yesterday for the first time. Boasting some of the most popular performances from last month's 1999 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, "The Best of the Fringe Festival" show kicked off at 7:30 p.m. last night in Annenberg Center's Prince Theatre. The sold-out show, which featured modern dance and physical theater, will be repeated at the same time tonight and tomorrow. Tickets for remaining performances can be purchased at the Annenberg box office for $25 or for $15 with Penn ID. The Fringe Festival itself is an annual event that takes place every September in Old City, featuring over 150 contemporary performances from local dancers, singers and actors. The 11-day event has been running since 1997, but this is the first year that the Dance Celebration organization has united the festival's leading performers as part of the NextMove series at Annenberg. "To make this possible, our board members attended the Fringe Festival and looked for the best dance artists," explained 1967 College graduate Randy Swartz, artistic director of Dance Celebration and former Daily Pennsylvanian editor. "Then it was a matter of seeing which of them were available." Yesterday's show began with sketches from four Fringe groups and concluded with three more ensembles after a brief intermission. The acts, featuring from one to eight artists each, explored vastly different styles of dancing with background music ranging from rap to jazz. "It was really interesting because all of the dances seemed to contain stories," Hampshire College student Jessica Broaddent said. "It's really interesting to see ideas expressed through a different medium." The performances were short, with each group on stage for just 15 minutes. "It was good to keep things small because this is a new audience for us in a more formal setting than the Fringe, so we weren't sure about the reaction," said Emily Hubler, a dancer from the Group Motion Company. "I think the show went well." The "Best of Fringe" shows are augmented by special events. A panel discussion with Fringe writers and performers will be held today at 11:30 a.m. in the Drake Theater at the University of the Arts at 15th and Spruce streets. Tomorrow at 1 p.m., a physical theater workshop will be held in the University of the Arts at 309 Broad Street.