2020 has put a lot of things in focus for many of us - the year of the pandemic, the growth in the movement for racial equity that picked up steam this summer, the election year. Here at Penn, we are all grappling with ways to do our part as citizens, students, and especially as members of the Philadelphia community.
Penn students have stepped up this year. While I have always seen Penn students as being very civically engaged and advocating for causes they believe in, it has been more evident this year. It has been heartening and hopeful to see, especially during the deepest months of quarantine, so many of my fellow students attend protests, compile resources and match donations, and start open conversations about topics that are important to them. A larger discussion about diversity and how we can be better has been started across many student organizations. Penn students from whereever they might be have tried to support local West Philly small businesses that have struggled amidst the pandemic, ordering books from bookstores, getting takeout from restaurants, or even sending donations to stores that are not open right now. Living alongside the West Philadelphia community, Penn continually tries to improve its relationship with the surrounding community and make a positive impact on it, and Penn students play a large part in pushing for this; for example, the undergraduate yearbook is donating a percentage of its profits to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia in order to give back to the community. The professor of a class I am taking centered on sports narratives adjusted the curriculum to include articles and discussions around racial inequalities in sports today.
As the election was approaching, I saw students passing out signs, volunteering to phonebank to help people get registered to vote, watching the debates together, and sign up to be poll workers. Various clubs started social media campaigns to make sure as many students as possible are registered to vote, and many students offered to help others navigate the complicated process. Many of my classes have also taken time to have speakers come in to help students get registered to vote and answer any questions about the process.
We can all do better in many ways, and this year has shed light on that. But I am so proud to be part of a Penn community that isn’t afraid to speak up. I’ve personally seen this in the form of writing articles, calling and writing to representatives, starting podcasts, leading many virtual speaker events and discussions, and taking a stand. We are recognizing that our worldview shouldn’t be limited to what directly affects us and are making sure we are engaged with our community, our city, and our world.
Penn students have a voice, and they are learning how to use it.