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My Swat Story: Olivia Vasquez Ponce '21

Olivia Vasquez Ponce '21 stands on parrish steps in front of Magill Walk

Major: Educational Studies
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.

She Took the Road Less Traveled

“I'm a non-traditional student, so I went to community college, graduated in 2016, and then became an organizer for an immigrant rights group in South Philly. Working with youth, I saw that schools didn't have the resources and counselors weren't properly trained to provide the information and support students needed. I realized then that I wanted to go back to school and get involved in education. I was looking for places that would foster and support the community work that I've done and also had the same values I did. I heard about Swarthmore by hosting their interns and they were all very passionate about social justice. I felt like I connected with them, but I was working, so Swarthmore wasn't quite in the picture yet. My best friend who also graduated from here, recommended that I apply and visit. I was blown away because students walking on campus looked like me, which I couldn't find at other schools.”

Everyone is a Teacher

“I'm very passionate about mutual learning. I believe that everybody has the capacity to learn and to contribute, which led me to Learning 4 Life (L4L). I joined after my adviser, Diane Anderson, who is also first-generation, told me that they were requesting students to partner with staff. I love the program because it teaches unity, love, and respect for every part of our community. Sometimes when we go to Sharples, we don't even think about the people who are making our food or washing our plates. With L4L, I learned to value all of these efforts. It also connects me to my community and to my mom because she works in the city cleaning houses and restaurants. When I talk to Ms. Vivian and Ms. Sharon from EVS and other people in L4L, it reminds me of that importance.”

Swarthmore Cannot be a Bubble

"Swarthmore is not the savior of local communities and we should always be asking first how we can support their work. We can go to schools and write about what we think should be done, but I think it's also very important to foster lasting relationships with people from the community. You can't just go for one semester, come back to campus, and then completely forget.”