After a summer of service, 10 students who worked as Chester Community Fellows presented their experiences last week to the Swarthmore community.
Offered by the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, Chester Community Fellowships (CCF) provide students with individual, full-time experiences in nonprofit social service organizations located in nearby Chester.
Throughout the 10-week summer program, the students worked at a variety of agencies, including the Chester Children's Chorus, Chester Education Foundation, and the College Access Center of Delaware County, where students developed workshops and mentored high school students who are transitioning to college, the military, or employment.
Lauren Savo '20, of Sierra Madre, Calif., worked for Chester Youth Court and stressed the importance of asking questions and listening when entering new communities. "You don't want to help people, you want to work with people," she says. "You don't want to take power, you want to empower."
Nevien Swailmyeen '20, of North Bergen, N.J., expressed a similar sentiment. She worked for the Crozer-Keystone Community Foundation, and said that learning occurs through observation, listening, and putting one's self in challenging spaces. She also noted the importance of humanizing problems.
While most fellows interacted directly with members of the community, Daya Shrestha '20, of Lalitpur, Nepal, spent his days among files and numbers for his work with the Chester Housing Authority. Shrestha analyzed data from a Section 8 housing program. "I was impressed to see what numbers can express about human beings, families, and communities," he says. The positive impact of the housing program is something he believes would be beneficial to his home country, where such programs do not currently exist.
Shrestha was not the only fellow to see parallels in Chester with his hometown. Adil Belgaumi '20, of Karachi, Pakistan, recognized the lack of hope that stemmed from stagnation. He worked at the Ruth Bennett Community Farm, where among learning agricultural skills, he also learned the importance of giving young people hope while showing them they can have a positive change on society.
In addition to working at their service sites, the students also held group meetings with Associate Professor of Sociology Lee Smithey, Associate Professor of Statistics Lynne Steuerle Schofield '99, and Professor of Religion Mark Wallace. These meetings enabled the students to contextualize their service experiences.
"The students fuse their education and their social action at the same time to benefit the Chester community," explains Lang Center Scholar-in-Residence Arto Woodley on how the fellowship program teaches the students engaged scholarship.
He also notes that the fellowship program is just one of the ways the Lang Center and the College are committed to the city of Chester. This summer, five additional students interned in Chester through Associate Professor of Political Science Keith Reeves '88 and the Swarthmore Black Alumni Network, and Smithey and Wallace both have ongoing projects in the city. Additionally, a number of this year's fellows said that they are continuing their relationships with the organizations and people with whom they worked in Chester.
This year's service project culminated in the creation of eportfolios outlining each students' background, vision, and experience from their service. View their websites: Adil Belgaumi '20, Rasheed Bryan '20, Elena Do '20, Katherine Lima '20, Eishna Ranganathan '20, Lauren Savo '20, Nevian Swailmyeen '20, David Wible '18, and Grace Zhang '20.
If you are interested in creating your own Swat-e-Portfolio, contact Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development T. Shá Duncan Smith.
Learn about Swarthmore’s impact on the local and global community at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.