Getting to Know Philidelphia Through Culture and Care
100 Saint Joseph’s freshmen participate in pre-orientation service immersion
Friday, August 20, 2010
PHILADELPHIA – (Aug. 20, 2010) - On Aug. 24, 100 of Saint Joseph’s University’s incoming freshman class will begin a five-day exploration of Philadelphia to get to know the city – from its culture to its needs – in the days preceding their academic orientation. Through the University’s Philadelphia Service Immersion Program (PSIP), these new collegians will have the opportunity to visit cultural centers of Philadelphia while serving the greater community, led by past PSIP students and faculty volunteers. This year’s program will run from Tuesday, Aug. 24 through Saturday, Aug. 28.
While the rest of their classmates finalize packing and the transition into college life, PSIP participants will move to campus and begin their urban immersion. Throughout the duration of the program, the volunteers will take part in a service project each morning with their SJU student leader, and then visit a city cultural destination in the afternoon, guided by a faculty member. Faculty members choose the cultural sites to reflect their area of expertise, allowing them to fully engage students in the city’s vibrant history. This year, destinations include Eastern State Penitentiary, the Philadelphia Zoo and a tour of mosaics by artist Isaiah Zagar, among others.
“The City of Philadelphia is an important part of the education we offer at Saint Joseph’s,” says Daniel Joyce, S.J., Assistant to the Vice President for Mission and Identity. “Many of our classes integrate the diversity and human issues of our city. The PSIP program offers our students a jump into this fantastic urban enrichment.”
Maura Bernt ‘11, intern to the Office of Mission and SJU rising senior, participated in PSIP in its first year when she was a freshman, and has helped plan this year’s program. Bernt is a student leader for the Class of 2014 participants. For Bernt, this kind of introduction to the City of Brotherly Love was, and continues to be, irreplaceable.
“It gives students the opportunity to see the richness and beauty of Philadelphia, without overlooking its areas of need,” Bernt says. “PSIP participants are encouraged to see that they’re not just a community at SJU. They learn that they need to engage in the larger community and participate in the world.”
Now in its fourth year, the PSIP program has grown to include 100 students and 20 student leaders – up from the 40 students that participated when the program was first introduced in the fall of 2007 – and reaches out to several city service sites. Students have the opportunity to select their top three sites and are then assigned to serve at one of them, in groups of five freshmen and one SJU student leader.
The 2010 service choices include the elder and disability care center Inglis House; the homeless hospitality center Saint Francis Inn; and community gardens initiatives led by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. New to the program are New Visions, a Camden, N.J.-based homeless day shelter and New Jerusalem, an addict recovery program where students will help to renovate recently acquired housing for the recovery program residents.
“The only way to really teach leadership and service is to learn the reality of the community and the concerns of its people,” says Fr. Joyce. “PSIP is one of the most effective ways to do this. It gives new purpose to the next four years at Saint Joseph’s for these students.”