In the spring of my sophomore year, I took a course titled “Ethnography & Media: Social Justice and the Street.” I registered for it because it sounded like an interesting topic and I was curious to learn about the intersection of Communication and Social Justice. Little did I know that I had enrolled in an Academically-Based Community Service (ABCS) course. ABCS courses combine community service with course curriculum, providing a structured way for students to volunteer in the Philadelphia community while applying their experiences to course topics. While they tend to be more time-consuming, given the amount of time spent at the volunteering location, my time in the course proved to be extremely rewarding!
I volunteered at Books Through Bars, an organization in West Philadelphia that receives letters from prison inmates requesting books of various genres and written by a multitude of authors. Having received the letters, volunteers pick out books from the donated library of books at the center, and package them to be shipped back to inmates.
After volunteering at Books Through Bars for the duration of the semester, my project team created a video documentary that described the way the organization operated, who volunteered there, and how the community was involved in its efforts. It turned out to be an awesome experience in which I had the opportunity to interact with individuals outside of the “Penn Bubble,” but discovered that we still had much in common. That said, the experience also reminded me that people come from all different walks of life, and that I am lucky to be at a University that can provide opportunities to engage with the local community.
-Angela Ip, C'18