“Write a six-word memoir,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Nimisha Ladva proposes to a room of around 40 people. “And once you’re done, write another.”
Professor Ladva was creating an unusual icebreaker where everyone would be prepared to share a story. “l believe that everyone has a story to tell,” she says. “l believe the shortest distance between two people is a conversation.”
This story-telling activity kickstarted the first-ever networking event for the Philadelphia Justice and Equity Fellowship (PJEF), a program of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC).
The gathering, which took place on December 2, brought students, alumni, and community organizers together in the Friends Center in Philadelphia.
CPGC Associate Director Janice Lion, the organizer of the event, calls it “A dream come true. My hope is that this is the beginning of building the reputation of the PJEF program upon relationships with trusted partners, alumni and friends.” CPGC Executive Director Eric Hartman was also happy about the turnout. “It’s amazing to see this program in its second year and continuing to grow,” he says.
The event featured seven tables at which attendees could gather and network. Each bore a sign declaring the subject, issue, or career area that would be the focus of conversation at that table. Among them: agri/cultural work and place-making, arts and cultural education, community organizing, economic development, government/public service, advocating for immigrants, and philanthropy/nonprofits.
Andres Mauricio Celin ’11, a community organizer and consultant, prefaced the event by advising students to “Ask for help like you own it, because people want to help you and want to invest in you.”
The PJEF program, which was piloted in 2021, is a CPGC initiative that supports students to work with organizations focused on anti-racism and inclusion in the Philadelphia region over the academic year and summer. Last spring there were five fellows and this fall there were nine.
Oscar Wang ’14, Executive Director of College Together, a nonprofit that offers an affordable and supportive path to a college degree to low-income students, was excited about joining the PJEF program, saying “When the CPGC started PJEF l was like, ‘Sign me up.’ I really saw it as a way to give Haverford students a pathway into industries in Philadelphia.”
Over the academic year, fellows work around 10 hours per week and learn skills needed for the workplace as well as about working in a nonprofit organization. Tanvi Jha ’24, who was a fellow at the Council on American-lslamic Relations this summer, says that PJEF has “given me more hands-on experience that you can’t get in the classroom. Not just for grassroots work but for work in general.” Also valuable, says Jha: “Getting a taste of how to apply learning to real life.”
Maria Reyes Pacheco ’24, who was a spring 2022 PJEF Fellow with New Sanctuary Movement, an organization focused on immigrant justice, says the event gave her the opportunity to “connect with alums who are working in the city and creating change and to learn how their Haverford journey was a path for that.”
Adrianna Abizadeh, the executive director of Kensington Corridor Trust, a PJEF partner, says of the program, “The partnership has been really meaningful … and has been a really good source of connection for us. Every one of the fellows has been amazing and such a joy. They’ve been super helpful and [provide] a wealth of knowledge and resources.”
Curtis Kline ’24, the PJEF Fellow who has worked at Kensington Corridor Trust this fall, calls his work with the organization “an amazing experience.”
Also at the event were several students in the Tri-Co Philly program, which offers courses about Philadelphia and opportunities to visit the city itself, Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities Program Manager Kelly Jung, and Sayeeda Rashid, director of Haverford’s Center for Gender Resources and Sexuality Equity. Rashid emphasizes the importance of this kind of community engagement and activism. “When it comes to supporting our LGBTQIA students,” Rashid says, “it’s really important for our students to be involved in justice work and understanding community-driven systems change.”
The CPGC’s Lion believes that both students and partners will benefit greatly as the PJEF program continues to grow. “Organizations get exceptional students,” she says, “and [PJEF] helps students learn through experience and meeting people, not just through a book.”