The Makuu Summer Impact Program seeks to engage rising 11th and 12th graders in the Philadelphia community in college access and completion work, as well as in interdisciplinary work that more broadly connects to education and activism. We want to empower our students to be leaders in their various communities and to be their whole selves in the spaces that they enter.
Our six week program, conducted primarily out of Makuu, our Black Cultural Center here at Penn, brings our students directly into the hub of “Black Penn” and allows them to make connections of faculty that are affiliated with the space, as well as students who self-identify as Black. Aside from Makuu, we did spend some days in the Van Pelt Library Weigle Information Commons, as well as in other locations on campus.
As previously mentioned, the program is primarily focused in college access and completion work, so we engage in activities ranging from: tutorials on scholarships and other widely used tools such as the Common Application to self-awareness activities that allow our students to think deeply about themselves in a way that generates ideas for college essays, but more importantly promotes self-growth.
Through the process of creating this program I have learned that there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to be able to deliver content to students on any given day. I have also begun to feel the meaning within the work. You can understand from a theoretical perspective that there is a great inequity in schools and that children and families are being disserviced. However, when you put a program like this into practice and you watch students go from believing they would not be able to attend college, to daring to dream big and actually laying the foundations for their own future college success even before applying… you can see and feel how much of an impact teachers/ role models/ mentors can have on a young person’s life.
In the future, I want to become a teacher. I have been an educator and mentor in other roles throughout my life; however, I have not had that many opportunities to be a teacher in the formalized sense with lesson planning, instructing, classroom management, and everything else that goes into being a teacher. This program gave me a unique opportunity to see the other side of a classroom and in doing so, reaffirmed my dreams.