In and Out of Prison

Every week, I spend around an hour and a half commuting back and forth to VisionQuest, a juvenile delinquent facility in North Philadelphia. Through the on-campus organization, Petey Greene, I tutor juvenile delinquents to complete high school equivalency through an online learning platform. In my two-hour tutoring sessions, I have helped out with a huge range of subjects, ranging from Shakespeare to personal finance - whatever the student needs help with.

The other tutors who go in every week as well include Penn, Temple, and Haverford students. I started volunteering with Petey Greene as a junior, and it is still the only activity I’ve done at Penn that integrated and collaborated with other college students in the area. We also work closely with regional Petey Greene employees whose job it is to keep Petey Greene running.

My experience with Petey Greene has been challenging yet rewarding. How do you explain what a literary symbol is to a student who has trouble with basic reading? Still, I understand how important the tutors are for giving some extra support to the students, which keeps me motivated to continue and to stay creative and energetic in my teaching methods. When people think of “prisoner” and “jail,” the gut reaction is fear - but, as a tutor, I have found my tutees to be kind, funny, respectful and receptive to help.

One main reason why I came to Penn was for the unique opportunities available to engage with the community, given the city location. Seeing the impact of poverty and crime firsthand through community service organizations at Penn has been eye-opening and inspires me to use my knowledge gained at Penn for greater social good in the future, particularly in the realms of education and criminal justice reform.

Emma H, C'17